The kitchen is quiet and dark at Il Posto when I arrive for my interview with Andrea Frizzi. He makes us both a cup of espresso and then he begins to talk. I am immediately struck by his positive philosophy about life. This is a man who is deeply in love with his wife, a man who would give you the shirt off his back, a man with honor.
“My family owned a salumerie in Milan. I was obligated to be a chef because I had to work in the family business. After finishing culinary school my father sent me to a “Nazi” restaurant. I started there as a commis and left as a chef. I learned that I was good, and that I wanted to be the best. I call it a Nazi restaurant because when I made a mistake the chef locked me in the freezer for 7 hours. It was an old style restaurant where the line cooks took a lot of abuse. I vowed I would never be one of those mad chefs. I’m fair. It’s intense working for me, but I am respectful. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning.”
In 1993 Andrea moved to the United States and accepted a position as the Executive Chef for Bice Restaurant in Washington, D.C. “ When I left Italy it was the first time I saw my father cry.” he says. In 1994 Williams Sonoma named him one of the new rising best chefs in the USA for its Taste of Home publication. He was also named best new young chef in Washington, D.C. by Dining Digest.
Over the course of 12 years he has helped open over 20 new restaurants. In 1997 he stopped in Denver to help open Cucina Colore. “I loved Denver. I noticed that Denver was on the verge of getting really good food. I came back a few years later to help open Via.”
On Opening Il Posto: The day I gave notice at Via, a friend of mine drove me by the space on 17th Avenue that is now Il Posto. I opened Il Posto using my credit cards. When you believe in something you have to go for broke. The universe will do everything it can to give you your dream as long as you jump in with both feet. You must have faith. You must be honest, keep your word, treat people right and be passionate about your work.
Andrea is true to his word. In 2009 when the restaurant business suffered due to the economy, he didn’t fire his staff, he didn’t cheapen his ingredients. He stayed the course. In 2010 profits were up 20%.
“Il Posto was an instant success, although we did have growing pains, but that is to be expected. The vision for Il Posto was to offer a good price point for diners without anyone going broke.”
On Denver diners: The majority of people only make $40,000 a year. On that salary it is difficult to pay bills and still have money left over for dining out. Il Posto aims to create an experience for everyone. It is not an elite or special occasion restaurant. We offer great bottles of wine between $35-45 dollars. We welcome everyone with a small glass of prosecco as a thank you for choosing Il Posto for dinner.
We open for lunch even though we don’t make much money. There is a lovely elderly couple that comes in for lunch 2 or three times a week. They try everything, They drink wine. We love them.
What’s next: My goal is to have a farm and a wine importing company.
About me: I don’t do politics. I don’t want to be on Food Network. I want to provide a great experience for everyone. I have no fear of failure. I am not gun shy. If you fail, get up and do it again.
The best part of Il Posto: I love when guests compliment the line cooks.
Rules in my kitchen: I like it quiet, no yelling and very clean.
My line cooks: If I don’t change the menu by at least 60% everyday they call me a pussy. Your brain is like a muscle. When you change the menu everyday your brain adapts to that. Most line cooks couldn’t cope with so much change, but at Il Posto we do it right and in an efficient way.
On Denver: People are friendly. It’s genuine. People are not star struck. Here, everyone has a chance.
Favorite or least favorite ingredient: I “hate” butter. It compromises everything. I am a firm believer in pure flavor. Butter is a safe ingredient.
Chefs that I respect: Patrick at Z Cuisine. He is a crazy motherfucker. I love that he is just about the food, and not about what people think. He’s so French – he only works about 36 hours a week (he pauses, smiles and says, please print that).
Where I like to Eat in Denver: Sushi Sasa. I know that Sushi Den is where everyone loves to go but at Sushi Sasa the ingredients are the star. Table 6 – they’re good people. I like the food and the ambience. Aaron is great and Scott is a sweetheart. Fruition – Alex is an intense human being and a good friend. I respect him and his commitment to his team. Masterpiece Deli – Justin crafts some great sandwiches. Saigon Bowl – they serve some really good Vietemese food and the owner is always there. For pizza I love Marcos Coal Fired. For Italian – Parisi. Simone is a good friend of mine. I also really love Parallel 17 – Mary Nguyen is a great person. She helped me when I needed it the most. She and Simone from Parisi believed in me.
Favorite Season for cooking: Summer. The best time to cook in Colorado is the end of July and the beginning of August. The porcinis, chanterelles, and heirloom tomatoes are so good.
Favorite Cookbook: Pellaprat l’arte Della Cucina Moderna.
Favorite kitchen tool: A wooden spoon.
If you could eat anywhere in the world: At a friend’s restaurant in Italy. He makes polenta with spinach, butter and sage and veal braised in red wine with mushrooms. I don’t need to go to a five star restaurant. Eating at those places just makes me stressed out. It’s like going on a job interview. I like to go to restaurants that remind me of my childhood.
Last words: At Il Posto we do the best we can. We work really hard for that. This is the love of my life. We will never skimp on happiness for a price point.
Every second Saturday Chef Andrea teaches cooking classes from 10:00 am – noon. For just $52.80 you can spend time in the kitchen with chef and learn how he makes his fabulous gnocchi.
Il Posto – 2011 E. 17th Ave., Denver. 303-394-0100. Mon-Thurs: 5:00pm – 11:30pm. Friday and Saturday: 5:00pm – 12am. Sunday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm. Lunch: 11:00-2:30pm.