2012 | Frank Bonanno

Yearly Archives: 2012

Three Days at Three Stars


This summer, four chefs from Mizuna and Luca d’Italia spent time in nationally acclaimed kitchens. Each was offered a job (a testament to the talent and work ethic around me).

I’ve written here before about how important it is for chefs to cook in a variety of kitchens–to learn, to be humbled, and sometimes just to renew. The following story, though, is Mizuna executive chef Stephen McCary’s perspective. He assembled notes on his stage at Aureole for a national website and in rereading it today, I wish I’d posted it here earlier. . .

I’m the executive chef of a 53-seat restaurant in Denver, where owner Frank Bonanno sends us on random 3-day stages as a way to keep us inspired and fresh for the job. The night before mine, I worked the Mizuna line until midnight. Of course I couldn’t sleep afterwards—not just because I was busy doing laundry and [ Read More ]

luca peace

The Month Luca Was a Borg


In 2007, Dr. Michael Handler cut out a small piece of my son’s skull and placed it in a deep freezer. He used the opening as a portal through which to attach electrodes directly to Luca’s brain. The wires that came from that portal hung on Luca like a thick patch of robotic dreadlocks, covered at the base with a heavy wad of bandaging, then plugged directly into a machine to monitor his brain activity. In another few days, Dr. Handler would use the map of that electrical activity to indicate which piece of Luca’s brain he would need to excise in order to control the epilepsy.

Let me back up a minute.

Luca was only nine months old when he had his first seizure. We thought he’d been choking until he had a second seizure the next morning. For the next three and a half years, Luca took the prescribed Depakote, [ Read More ]

My Big Fat Restaurant Family Makes a Cookbook


When I opened Luca d’Italia nearly a decade ago, I got to staff it with my friends. Even then, I realized those days were numbered–that I would age in an industry that wouldn’t necessarily age with me, that these talented people would move on to other restaurants or other careers, that I would never again have this opportunity to surround myself in my workplace with my friends.

I was right. Brandon, Noel, Paulie, Johnnie—new jobs, or families, or towns. Rob Lawler’s running The Truffle. Reba has her own restaurant in New York. The people I work with today—not just at Luca, but all around Denver—they are not my friends; that era has passed. I find myself instead to be a patriarch of sorts, and my co-workers today–they are my family.

Here’s proof.

In April, Osteria Marco manager Chris McNeal, asked me if he could produce a cookbook for Luca d’Italia. He wanted to [ Read More ]

Yes Danica, I’m Mean


I’m such a jackass; ask anyone.

I want to brag about my “Hold Production” citation from the Department of Environmental Health–brag partially because it reads like an advertisement for a cured meat program (19 cheeses, some with mold, all between 54 and 57 degrees; 12 different kinds of meats plus jars of kimchee holding at 64 degrees. Temperature, humidity, mold conditions–all perrrrrfect) and partially because bragging irks our local inspector, Danica Lee. Furthermore, my work on a soon-to-be-released project has this teaser. I love it. Again, not only because it highlights work that I’m extremely proud of, but because it rubs it in-just a little–scary music and all, that I’m still making beautiful cured meats. I and a select group of talented peers have been curing meats and cheeses for over ten years. Four of those years I have been in the continuous process of working with my local Denver officials on [ Read More ]

Is it my fault somebody stunk up the bathroom?


Part of me wishes no one complained.

A Mizuna patron vented online because her illegally parked car was towed (she didn’t use the complimentary valet). A steak tartare was too rare; a soft shell crab too difficult to de-shell, a vichyssoise too cold. At Luca, a client raged against the cloth napkins ill-suited for her gum disposal; at Green Russell I was confronted by a woman who could not believe her bare feet weren’t allowed on the table. One diner at Bones complained because too much of another’s bum was exposed at the bar. I need to know that someone made the bathroom smell foul. The bar stools are too close together; the bar stools are too far apart. The patio at the Osteria was too sunny in July.

Now, these aren’t the comments that weigh heavily on me because they aren’t indicative of lagging professionalism or waning commitment. What they really [ Read More ]