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Last week, when we announced Jesse Morreale‘s return to the restaurant scene and his partnership with Larimer Associates / City Street Investors, details of the new project were thin. But now we know more: The still-unnamed restaurant and bar will go, as many suspected, into the former TAG Burger Bar space at 3759 Lipan Street, and Morreale has named Goose Sorensen of the much-loved Solera Restaurant as consulting chef.
Newcomers will surely miss the significance of that building: It was the longtime home of Subway Tavern, which was owned by the Longo family for 52 years. The spot was allegedly the first to serve pizza in Colorado, and it was an anchor of Northwest Denver’s Italian community. When the tavern came up for sale in 2012, Larimer Associates bought and renovated it.
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Creating a true neighborhood space with a clear identity is more important than ever as Highland’s old-school restaurants are rapidly disappearing. The recent closure of Patsy’s Inn, an Italian staple for 95 years, was a hit to this community, especially after the beloved Carbone’s Sausage Deli shuttered in 2013 (but is staging a comeback in the pending Monkey Barrel space at 4401 Tejon Street) and the 65-year-old Pagliacci’s closed in 2012.
Morreale, although stressing that the restaurant will not be Italian in focus, is intent on creating a neighborhood gathering space that would make the Longo family and Subway’s loyal patrons proud. “That’s the relevant history here,” Morreale says. “There will be no Italian element but there will be character—a neighborhood space people can associate with and crave more than once a week.”
And Sorensen, Morreale says, is just the guy for the job. He’s an old-school choice (Solera, which sits on Colfax Avenue, turns 15 in October) and he knows how to carve out a neighborhood niche in a traffic corridor. But with this project, Sorensen will consult on more casual fare. “It’s a hangout we’re creating, ” Morreale says. “Goose won’t be coming into the kitchen and doing a torchon.”
And with Solera running like clockwork, Sorensen is looking forward to a new challenge. “This is a new neighborhood and a new project for me to sink my teeth into.” The overarching feel of the place will be a gathering space—a bar—with uncomplicated, casual food. “Every neighborhood needs a good bar,” Sorensen says. “When people get off work, they need a bar to go to. This will be a place to go and hang out with your friends, watch the game, and have a beer.” The restaurant/bar is slated to open mid- to late-September.
Watch 5280.com for more details, such as the project’s name and menu.