Round two with Pizza Republica's Eric Chiappetta
This is part two of my interview with Eric Chiappetta, executive chef of Pizza Republica. In part one of this interview, Chiappetta weighs in on why he believes the cook at Griff's Hamburgers is a culinary god, and that whole molecular yada, yada, yada thing.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Having Bill St. John, the then-restaurant critic at the Denver Post, tell me that I was way ahead of my time. He stopped in at my first restaurant -- 3rd Avenue Eclectic Burgers & Cuisine -- in 2000 and was blown away. At that time, it was the highlight of my career. We really thought we were pushing the envelope back then, and for such a well-respected guy to compliment us like that was huge.
Favorite restaurant in America: Justine's Brasserie in Austin, Texas. It's a little restaurant they built in an old Victorian house in the bad part of Austin. It's as traditional a brasserie as I've ever encountered -- and it reminds me a little bit of Z Cuisine. It's got a very cool bar, amazing service, the best burger I've ever had, and just the best vibe I've ever felt in a space. It's just cool.
Best food city in America: Austin, Texas. The chefs and restaurateurs don't compete; they create, and there's a real sense of community there. They totally built the city around the "Keep Austin Weird" concept. Austin has a great lesson to teach the rest of us: Don't take your shit too seriously. The best part is the dining public -- they really get it.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Griff's Hamburgers. We have a lot of history, Griff's and I. My buddies and I used to go to a club downtown that's no longer there, and we'd just get wrecked, and then we'd go through the Griff's drive-thru and get chocolate shakes and double cheeseburgers with the jalapeño spread. Now I limit myself to one a month -- but I'll go on the first day of the month and the last day of the month.
Favorite dish to cook at home: Mexican -- tacos, mostly. I'll make guacamole, salsas, homemade tortillas, and an avocado-crème-fraîche-and-tomato dippy thing, drink a ton of Mexican beers and have friends over. There's a real marked difference between how I cook professionally and how I cook at home. I'm a lot looser at home, and while I still make everything from scratch, I'm not as concerned about how it's going to translate. Everyone just gets together and we have fun.
Favorite dish on your menu: The new duck confit, prosciutto, fig and arugula pizza we're putting on the spring/summer menu. It's money.
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? Rice Krispies treats. We had them at the Larimer Hot House, my restaurant downtown, and my partner used to make a new style every day -- cinnamon toast crunch and crazy stuff like that. It was a lot of fun to see what she came up with every day. Here, we'd have to dip them in Nutella.