Roll the Bones
Frank Bonanno has become Denver's most successful restaurateur over the past nine years, so you'd think the brash chef would know better than to open an upscale noodle joint in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression. Then again, maybe he knew something others didn't.
Jacqueline rustles around her kitchen cabinets looking for a carafe (or, in this case, a pitcher) for the broth. When she locates one, she discovers one of the boys' miniature army figurines inside. "They're everywhere," she says, rolling her eyes and placing the pitcher—soldier and all—in reach of the stove. Just as Bonanno goes to strain the broth into the pitcher, he looks in, spots the army guy, and pulls him out.
"I've had a hell of a week," Bonanno tells me on December 11, 2008. "We have a cease and desist order from the city on our salumi at Luca." He breathlessly recounts how the health department has temporarily shut down Luca D'Italia's house-cured meat program (an investment of about $1,200, 40 pounds of meat, and about $200 a night in sales). The problem: Luca's prosciutto, bresaola, and cappicola are air-cured and stored at about 68 degrees instead of the required-by-law 41 degrees. "[The inspector] doesn't even know what prosciutto is—'Never heard of it' is what she said," he huffs.
Bones' opening night is 19 days away, and Bonanno is frazzled from the health inspection fiasco, lack of sleep, and an ever-growing punch list. The building inspector showed up this afternoon—a day early—and informed Bonanno that by replacing the front door (the old one was rotten at the bottom), he lost the grandfather clause that had allowed for a one-and-three-quarters-inch lip between the sidewalk and the door frame. Now, the new door isn't to code because it's not handicap-accessible. "So we have to build a ramp," says Bonanno. "We'll have someone manufacture it—a fucking 12-inch ramp that goes up one inch."
Upstairs in the office turned Bones staging area, Jacqueline learns that the restaurant supply company no longer carries the lowball glasses she picked out—even though she's already received, unpacked, washed, and stacked a half-order of the glasses. Meanwhile, the plumber spent several hours repairing two burst pipes under Luca's dish pit. Two evenings ago, on one of the coldest nights of the year, an employee turned off the heat when closing. There were 10 cracks in all, and fixing them—and the wall that had to be ripped out and repaired—cost $6,000.
To make matters worse, Bones' ice cream machine—designed to turn out cheerful, nostalgic flavors like Creamsicle and Cocoa Krispies—is temperamental at best. Chris Gregory says he's afraid to look at it for fear it'll break, and Bonanno admits that the ice cream base they're making contains so much butterfat that it's clogging the $15,000 machine.
A couple of days later, the servers' T-shirts—in "natural," with Bones' orange fish bone down the front—arrive, and logos are installed on the new windows. Progress is visible, but Bonanno is incensed. The logos are opaque instead of clear, and they're already peeling off. "They're fucking decals!" he says, exasperated, through yet another wad of chewing tobacco. "They charged us $150 to spray some water on the window and put the things on. I could have done that myself—for free."