Walking into the Greenwich—a nine-month-old spot in RiNo—feels a little like stepping into the eponymous New York City neighborhood restaurateur Delores Tronco called home before relocating to Colorado in 2021. Inside, the walls are studded with mementos of Tronco’s past life, including pen-and-ink prints of the Manhattan skyline by artist Pat Vale and images taken by the late, legendary street photographer Ricky Powell, who is also immortalized in a mural by Denver’s Austin Zucchini-Fowler that frames the restaurant’s alleyway entrance.

To execute a menu of polished, made-for-sharing bistro fare, Tronco persuaded chef Justin Freeman to move his family from Brooklyn to the Mile High City this past summer. Dishes such as hamachi tartare with mango and lemon curd and anchovy- and garlic-rubbed steak complement a lineup of pizzas that are a hybrid of Neapolitan and New York styles. The fluffy, wood-oven-fired wonders are crafted with a nearly six-year-old sourdough starter Freeman transported to Denver “in a 22-quart Cambro [container], between my legs in the car with a two-year-old and a puppy,” he says. Order the pie crowned with a mix of locally grown peppers, grana Padano and pecorino cheeses, chile flakes, and herbs for a perfect blend of Freeman’s flair and Centennial State flavor.

5 Questions for Justin Freeman, Executive Chef at the Greenwich

5280: What was it like growing up in New York’s Hudson Valley? What did you eat? How did that upbringing influence the dishes you prepare now?
Freeman: I’m Irish and Ecuadorian, so I grew up eating a little bit of everything. We maybe went out once or twice a month, but my mom would typically make dinner every single night…We’d have traditional Ecuadorian food—like at most of our dinners, we’d have a shrimp ceviche that my grandmother makes or empanadas. There will always be some sort of rice on the table. My dad’s from Dublin, so I grew up having that side of the family who are really into their chocolates and sweets and teas … My mom was always trying to make us cook with her. I have a twin brother and a little brother as well—and when we had time, we all just hung around the kitchen.

For me, the table is a communal space. That means a lot to me. I’ve had a lot of cherished moments with my family and friends around food. And I can remember the couple of times that we have gone out—like the very first time that we went out as a family for all of our birthdays and going out to Manhattan to a Chinese restaurant. I was blown away by those experiences as well. That’s what I want to bring [to the Greenwich]: I want every person that walks into this restaurant to feel like they’re sitting at my home, and this is how they would eat.

The roast chicken at the Greenwich. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

What are you most excited about for your new role in Colorado?
I can’t wait to see what vegetables and bounties that we can really start playing with. We’ve changed our menu, and we’re featuring a lot more vegetables. I’ve kind of back up a bit on the proteins to make [the menu] a little lighter… I’m excited for squash and to start seeing some tomatoes again. Definitely can’t wait to start seeing some chamomile and fresh herbs, like fresh coriander before they get dried out to the seeds. I have ideas for so many things, so I’m just excited to have my second year out here to fully embrace summer and really dive in and try to build more relationships [with farmers and producers].

What can patrons look forward to on the menu this summer at the Greenwich?
I’m really into our gem salad right now … it’s coming with a creamy ginger pistachio dressing with local shaved radish, fresh mint, and lime juice. We’ve also changed our crudo, which I think goes perfectly with the gem; it’s a lightly cured hamachi with za’atar and lime sugar and has a pickled habanero sauce on the bottom mixed with Meyer lemon curd and a rice cracker on top. I tell everybody to treat it like fish tacos…I also think we might have the best rendition of our roast chicken dish as of late. We still kept the same cure and butter mop it—but we’re doing this lacto-fermented garlic and lightly roasting some Chinese broccoli [to serve with it].

What is a pantry staple you can’t live without?
Sriracha on everything. We always have some sort of rice or pasta at home. There’s always lemon on the counter and fresh garlic drying to use for everything … I’ll pickle garlic that we use for a bunch of dishes. My son also really enjoys whole roasted eggplant that I cook with tomato and harissa. So we’ll have that, too, so he can snack on it. We’re a bit more like a big family of snackers. So we always have salsa, chips, and stuff like that; we try to be interactive with my kids. I try to make all the stuff that I can with them.

What are your favorite Colorado restaurants (besides your own)?
Truthfully I haven’t gone out very much, but some places I really do like. We live right next to Steuben’s—I think that place is super solid and delicious. I also enjoy Temaki Den and Somebody People.

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2022.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.