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The incubator-sized Chow Morso, which opened inside LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage eighteen months ago, is growing up. Coming this summer, the stall will become a full brick-and-mortar restaurant inside the former Squeaky Bean space at the corner of 15th and Wynkoop streets. The team behind Barolo Grill, the beloved 26-year-old fine-dining Italian restaurant on Sixth Avenue, tested a new audience with Chow Morso, and they’re now ready to give it a stronger identity as Chow Morso Osteria.
“I always thought that at some point I would open something more casual,” says owner Ryan Fletter. “What we did at Avanti was the polar opposite of Barolo, as far as style goes. This next evolution is somewhere in the middle of the two, an approachable place for a broader audience that wants a once-a-week, sit-down dinner that still comes with Italian wines and dishes made with high-quality ingredients.”
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Chef Darrel Truett, Barolo’s culinary director, will expand the original Chow Morso menu at the new osteria to include many of the items the team could not execute at Avanti due to space limitations: risotto, cacio e pepe, and spaghetti alla puttanesca, among others. During lunch, Chow Morso Osteria will focus on piadinas, or Italian flatbread sandwiches.
An Italian spritz bar and an approachable wine list will complement the food. Fletter, a sommelier, is planning to forgo the pricier Barolos and Brunellos he offers at his white-tablecloth restaurant for a more affordable list of Barberas and Rosso di Montalcinos. “We want to show our guests the range that Italian wines have and how easy it is to trade a California Cabernet for a rich red wine from Tuscany,” Fletter says. The Italian-heavy wine list will, however, make an exception for Champagne.
The Squeaky Bean space will get a cosmetic makeover as it transforms into the osteria: The floors and darker surfaces will be lightened, white Calacatta tile will be added behind the bar, and new chairs and barstools will replace the old ones. “We want our dining room to have a soft, contemporary look without disturbing the industrial character of the Saddlery building,” Fletter says, adding that there is one change he is most excited for: “We are building a glass-enclosed pasta station in front of the open kitchen. Guests will be able to see pastas being rolled there, and gnocchi and agnolotti being cut.”
When he first launched Chow Morso, Fletter had hopes that the Avanti incubator could be the first of many locations, similar to an Italian version of Chipotle. He’s still not ruling out that scenario: “I look at the Osteria as our home base, the mothership that will ground us and give us the opportunity to regroup. Down the road, we may decide that we want to pepper several locations of our street-food concept around,” he says.
Chow Morso Osteria is scheduled to open in July, with lunch on weekdays and dinner every night of the week.