Round two with Root Down's Justin Cucci: Linger, muthafuckas!!!!

Lori Midson

Justin Cucci
Root Down
1600 West 33rd Avenue

This is part two of my interview with Justin Cucci, owner and executive chef of Root Down and Linger. Part one of my interview with Cucci ran in this space yesterday.

Favorite restaurant in America: I don't have one. Like most people who eat at restaurants, I'm fickle, and things change too much to have one favorite. It used to be the Little Mushroom Cafe in New York, which was my first Thai food experience -- but that was years ago. I lived across the street from them, like twenty steps, and I think I ordered more delivery food from them than the whole rest of the neighborhood. It was ridiculous, and after they got over the initial lunacy of getting a delivery order from across the street, they just went with it. I ordered from them almost every day. Then it was the Green Zebra in Chicago, which marked the first time I was blown away by a restaurant that took vegetarianism seriously -- and food seriously, as well. But the second time around, it moved off the top-ten list.

Best food city in America: New York. It's original gangster, and the city seems to have a great understanding of seconds, pennies and inches. It's where every second counts, every inch is used, and every penny is valuable. Plus, the food tastes good, and the right New York restaurants dispense with the bullshit and just get down to the business of making great food, in a great space, with great service.

Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Currently Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza -- his crust is boombastic and I never tire of the lasagna; Lola, because there's a new trilogy of guacamole, tomatillo and apple salsa and a goat cheese fundido, which gives me three vegetarian ways to get down; and Masalaa in Aurora, because it's hands-down a fresh dimension in Indian food, plus it's completely vegetarian, which makes it even better.

One food you detest: Menudo. It's just gross -- but even more so because it's a terrible boy band. Menudo released several albums that were moderately successful, during which new members replaced the original ones. However, it was in 1981 that the album Quiero Ser launched the group into stardom. The band lineup at the time was Rene Farrait, Johnny Lozada, Xavier Serbia, Miguel Cancel, Edgardo Diaz and Ricky Meléndez -- the only remaining original member. The album included hit songs like "Quiero Ser," "Súbete a Mi Moto," "Rock en la TV," "Claridad" and "Mi Banda Toca Rock." The group became very popular throughout Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, including Brazil, although you may need a citation for that. During that time, Diaz was able to afford a Lockheed JetStar that had belonged to former American president Richard Nixon and the Shah of Iran. The plane carried Menudo's name on both sides of the fuselage and made it the first boy band ever with its own private jet. The group also had a fan base in Spain and the rest of Europe.

One food you can't live without: Ice cream. I'm an addict, in denial and relapsing all the time.

What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Is this where I say, "I wish there were better (insert ethnic word here) restaurants in Denver?" and then go on to say "and more late-night restaurants that cater to (insert restaurant-industry job title here)"? Is that this section of the interview? Yes? Okay, cool, so I'd like to see better Indian restaurants -- and definitely more restaurants that stay open late that cater to bookkeepers that work in "the industry." There's only one industry, right? And definitely better delivery food.

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