Frank Bonanno

frank bonanno restaurants

Frank Bonanno is king when it comes to the food scene in Denver, Colorado. A New Jersey native, this restaurateur drew inspiration from pastries and pastas from his Sicilian Grandmother and cooking up Julia Child recipes in his free time with his Mother. Bonanno gave us a guide to all things Denver, as we felt we were short on our food exploration there…

What would be your ideal Denver food day? Where would you go? What would you eat?

My ideal food days are Sundays. It’s a rare day off for me, so it’s a treat when I can enjoy a late, French-style breakfast at Bistro Vendôme on Larimer Square. In the afternoon, maybe rally at Lao Wang Noodle House on Federal to sample the broadest variety of dumplings possible. If dinner’s on the radar, then Colt & Gray or ChoLon. It’s just fun to be downtown on Sundays with my family, enjoying the Denver sunshine.

What’s your spot for Sunday brunch?

I stick close to home for brunch. Luckily, I’ve got great choices in my neighborhood. The Universal has perfect Egg Benedict and nice, strong coffee. There’s a little converted house, Sassafras, that serves up some of Denver’s best southern morning food – biscuits, fried green tomatoes – the works.

Your favorite spots to camp out for long meals…

Sushi Sasa, of course – the food keeps coming and I keep ordering no matter how full I get. For a social evening out, the kind where friends linger over good conversation, I’d say Z Cuisine.

What we all should know about food in Denver…

There are more Ethiopian restaurants in Denver than any other city outside of Ethiopia. Damn good food. Other than that: Denver used to have this reputation as a cow town, but at this point, we have the largest concentration of master sommeliers in the country, our spirits movement is absolutely among the best in the nation, and we have one of the strongest microbrew movements in the world. When people still hold that moniker of “cow town” over Denver, they’re seriously mistaken. It seems like nearly every week some aspiring young chef is taking a risk and opening a new restaurant. Extraordinary chains spring up here – think Chipotle and Snooze – where diners are more adventurous, and tend to have higher expectations, even regarding their fast food.

Not too long ago, I had the great misfortune to dine at a booth just next to where one of our own food writers was seated with friends. She disparaged our town, our chefs, our restaurants and our city throughout her evening. It was heartbreaking. Our local food writers should be our cheerleaders to the national press. If our reputation continues to fall short, it’s because our cheerleaders aren’t pulling the crowd. Because, seriously – wine, beer, spirits, food – Denver’s got it going on.

The restaurants you go to for the atmosphere…

I don’t. Atmosphere is lost on me. It’s all about the food and service. I hear the standard complaints – too light, too dark, too loud, too crowded, seats too rigid, tables too close together – but all of that is lost on me. Deliver a great plate of food and invisibly keep my wine and water full, and I’m a happy guest.

The places you unwind after a long night at the restaurant…

If it’s been a long night at the restaurant, I’m unwinding at home with a half bottle of wine left over from service, and usually with some God-awful food like Chef Boyardee. But, if I remember to cook for myself before I head home, it’s a Philly or a bowl of noodles.

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