Frank Bonanno weighs in on Denver Restaurant Week

Thumbnail image for Frank Bonanno.jpg
Lori Midson
Five of the half-dozen enterprises commanded by prolific restaurateur/chef Frank Bonanno are participating in Denver Restaurant Week, which gets under way on February 26 and continues through March 11, offering two weeks of multi-course dinners, priced at $52.80 per couple or $26.40 for one, excluding tax and gratuity.

Bonanno's restaurants -- Bones, Lou's Food Bar, Luca d'Italia, Osteria Marco and Mizuna -- have all signed up to feed the masses, as have hundreds of other food temples, some of which are chains, an inclusion that Bonanno takes issue with. "This should be for the little guy -- the average diner, the independent operator. You -- well, you advertise. You have coupons, and specials. Your taxes support other cities. I love that you champion this event -- I just don't think the city of Denver should spend its energies to promote you," writes Bonanno in a post on his personal blog. He also takes to task locally owned restaurants that refuse to take part in an incredible dining opportunity that, says Bonanno, "makes our city sparkle."

Bonanno's entire unedited post, which he allowed us to reproduce, is on the next page, and while there are undoubtedly plenty of diners and industry peeps who will wag their tongues in favor of and against his assessment of Denver Restaurant Week, Bonanno is certainly correct when he calls Denver Restaurant Week a "screaming deal."

Support Denver, Eat Well

I don't believe in offering coupons, or nightly specials; none of our restaurants advertise. Those somehow seem like cheap tricks to me--a way to lure diners and get them in over their heads, or get rid of food that's suspect or doesn't sell; a way to buy recognition.

But there is an honest to God deal I believe in and support wholeheartedly. Denver Restaurant Week. Three courses, two diners, $52.80: Screaming deal. Every major culinary city in the United States has embraced restaurant weeks. Chefs like Danielle Boulud, Rick Bayless and Danny Meyer churn out $20 deals so that diners can come out, sample, partake. It's just so great: food writing all over the internet; a city buzzing with who's been where and what was good; people actually out supporting the independent restaurateurs in their cities, eating and spending in what is normally the worst season to do so. Great food, wine freely pouring, a downtown alive on a Tuesday night. What could be bad about that? Well. There are some small drawbacks.

Staff that doesn't buy into it. Come on--people are attracted to restaurant business because they love being able to survive a serious crush. Crazy busy is fun. Really fun.

Venues that offer some cheap or watered down versions of their menu. For two short weeks, take a little hit on the profit margins. Make it about this City and celebrate its citizens by doing something special for them. It's the right thing to do.

Local restaurants that don't partake. For a brief period some of the best regular clients get turned away. It's a shame, but see beyond the end of your nose--they will forgive you. Look at the good it does for the culinary scene. It keeps us on our game, makes our city sparkle, brings people in from other neighborhoods and gets them talking food. They will say good things about you. I'm sure of it.

Chain restaurants that do partake. This should be for the little guy--the average diner, the independent operator. You--well, you advertise. You have coupons, and specials. Your taxes support other cities. I love that you champion this event--I just don't think the city of Denver should spend its energies to promote you.

Dietary restrictions. I will normally go to great lengths to accommodate any food aversions--but for this short period we all, diners included, have to be considerate of the circumstances. It's very difficult to stock for special needs when we're purchasing and preparing food for a normal night's service in addition to a 5280 offering. It's hard to empathize with someone who can't find anything to eat from a double set of menus.

One grumpy diner a day who can't get a reservation. I swear on a stack of cookbooks: when we're booked; we're booked. I can't magically pull tables out of my ass.

Day fourteen. Two weeks is a bit much--especially for the cooks, making the same items for every diner night after night. Kind of loses its luster. Seven days is fair.

In spite of the extra week, I can't tell you how excited I am for the end of the February. What an opportunity: to offer a true sampling of our menus and styles so you can check us out; to improve our service and speed, to embrace this limited opportunity to show you how much we appreciate you.

I wish I could be at six places at once, because, honestly--I look forward to seeing you here.

Follow @CafeWestword on Twitter

My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Aceranchero
Aceranchero

Ok, let's break it down…

"Denver." Our burgh, local, Little D. "Restaurant." def: "A place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises.""Week." 7-days.

The combines…"Denver Restaurant." A local place where people pay to sit etc…"Restaurant Week." A place where people pay to sit and eat…for 7-days."Denver Restaurant Week." I think you can figure this out. Please advise the Convention and VIsitors Bureau.

Joe
Joe

Blah blah balh, Bonano talking out of his ass again. He sure likes to whore himself at cooking shows, has WW in his back pocket, and hired a PR firm to promote his restaurants. Aren't there any new photos of Bonoano? That one is getting really old. Or does he not even cook in his kitchens any more?

Two weeks of DRW is awesome. Deal with it.

Brian Melton
Brian Melton

I do deal with it. Every year when DRW comes around. But, instead of bitching and moaning, I offer a suggestion. My bad.

Meanwhile, Frank Bo is at the top of the industry in Denver. Perhaps you should try your hand at dealing with that?

Joe
Joe

Actually, I like your suggestion about splitting DRW into two separate weeks. Deal with that!

There are a lot of people in this town that don't like Frank Bo. Something about him being a jerk, ripping off ideas from elsewhere, etc.

Joe
Joe

I don't have a problem with Bo hiring a PR firm. But then he shouldn't say stuff like, "none of our restaurants advertise."

Jeff
Jeff

There may indeed be a lot of people in town who don't like Bonanno. I have no idea. I know that very successful people are often envied to the point of animosity by others in their profession though. Maybe he's a jerk too. I don't know, and I doubt you do either.

I eat out somewhat frequently, and am at a Bonanno restaurant at least once a month or so. I have seen him at least once or twice at each of his six places. I think that he circulates Bones, Luca, and Mizuna regularly since they are connected. I see him at those most often. And yes, he cooks. He's been in the kitchen at Bones on more than one occasion that I've been there, and I've seen him calling the shots at Mizuna too.

I don't understand why you would have a problem with him hiring a PR firm to promote his restaurants. They guy has six high-profile restaurants in the metro area. He'd be an idiot not to.

Mark
Mark

Amen Sir

Brian Melton
Brian Melton

Two weeks is too long for everyone in the industry regardless of if they're in the back of the house or the front of the house.

If we're going to do this, then Denver, why can't we seriously consider splitting Restaurant Week(s) into two separate events? How bout one week in February and one in September? Eventually we're just going to all burn out on this 14 day onslaught and I think it would mean more if we considered two different seasons.

simoney
simoney

Brian, I think you're on the right track but maybe keep the same two weeks together just give the restaurants a choice of which week out of the two they would like to participate in? So it's a two week celebration of our dining scene but each restaurant picks just one week. Unless they are crazy and want to do both!

Brian Melton
Brian Melton

Works for me, although I'm pretty sure that once you commit to this thing right now, you're committing for two weeks solid. I agree with Frank, it's a great way to promote your establishments and to get people in the doors. We at TAG feed the philosophy of amazing $52.80 menus and we strive to keep the service (although it can get rough with so many turns every evening) friendly and professional. It's still a two week celebration of our restaurant scene...it's just not two weeks solid.

eyes open
eyes open

While I love the idea of Restaurant Week and take advantage of it by trying new places, people need to be wary of some of these "deals".

I love Bonnano's restaurants and Osteria Marco is one of my everyday favorites, but go take a look at the Restaurant Week offer. Salad= $6, Entree= $12 or $15, Dessert is not on the menu on the website, but at most you are $21 on a regular day after the salad and entree. Even if the dessert is worth $10 (and that should be stretching it for a dessert), you are only going to spend $31. I don't think that $4.20 saving is anything worth bragging about. That is barely the tip for the waiter.

Consumer beware. Just because someone says you are getting a deal, it may just be "advertising" that Mr. Bonnano "doesn't believe in."

Just for the record, I am someone that eats out on a regular basis and I am definitely not "cheap". I just think that folks who use Restaurant Week as a special occasion should be aware that not all establishments are doing it solely for the good of the community.

Jeff
Jeff

Bonanno is right on the money. They should definitely go back to one week. It made it more special, of course it's easier on restaurants financially, and I can only imagine how monotonous two weeks of that must be for restaurant staffs.

The Convention and Visitor's Bureau should not be even offering this opportunity to Outback, et. al. I could see some local chains being included, but anyone who has a restaurant outside of Colorado should be left out. This is about getting folks to Denver restaurateurs and promoting local businesses. If this promotion gets John Q. Suburb to go to Mizuna instead of P.F. Chang's for dinner, it has served it's purpose.

I guess I can actually see why a few places might not want to participate. Fruition is my favorite restaurant in town, and I think that they are incredibly reasonably priced for what they serve. I can see that it wouldn't make sense for them to participate though. The cheapest you could put together three courses from their current menu would be around $40 per person, so it's a little unreasonable to ask them to do it for $26.40. I also wouldn't want to see them trot out some lame mixed green salad, chicken breast, and panna cotta just to participate. I don't know how Bonnano is managing to serve duck at that price, but I'm sure glad he is.

Harvey
Harvey

Agreed.

But I think Frank misses on one point, people who try his places once for the cheap won't be back, and a discount at The Cheesecake Factory keeps the "my glass wasn't filled with water every 3 seconds and how does one survive on a 10oz portion?" pains in the ass exactly where they belong...at The Cheesecake Factory.

jc
jc

And on this point, you are totally wrong. Many, many people use restaurant week as a chance to sample the places that aren't "everyday" joints for the vast majority of the populace. And if they are good, then guess what? That place might be the next special occasion dinner location, or the place you rave to your co-workers, parents, or friends about.

Daveed
Daveed

Wow. I could not agree more with any of those points. It seems that a little of the sparkle came off of DRW when Outback Steakhouse joined in.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...