Pizzeria Basta's Kelly Whitaker opening a new restaurant in Denver
It won't be Pizzeria Basta, insists Kelly Whitaker, but "I can promise you that it'll be epic." Whitaker is describing the new restaurant that he, along with Andrew Birkholz, president of distributorship at Ciao Vino Selections, and Whitaker's partners at Id Est Hospitality Group, the company that he founded when he opened Basta in Boulder in 2010, will unleash in the fall of this year in the new Gravitas shipping container development at 25th and Larimer, which will also pimp Work & Class, a restaurant from Delores Tronco and Tony Maciag, as well as Huckleberry Roasters.
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"We've been looking for the last year and a half for a space in San Diego, but with the restaurant wave that's going on in Colorado, we shifted our focus away from California and entirely back to Colorado, specifically Denver," says Whitaker, who had initially planned to open a restaurant called Kontainer -- a concept similar to Basta -- next to the Infinite Monkey Theorem, the tap room and winery owned by Ben Parsons.
"We started doing first Fridays with Ben three years ago at his old location on Santa Fe, and it's been our goal for a while to do a collaborative project with him," explains Whitaker. But then the Kontainer project fell apart: "There were all sorts of little issues that got in the way -- we felt like we were trying to force everything -- plus it was a really expensive project," adds Whitaker.
Then, two months ago, Whitaker got wind of the 25th and Larimer space, and he and his partners met with the Gravitas Development Group to discuss a potential restaurant -- one that was built entirely from reclaimed shipping containers, 29 to be exact. "It was great, because we didn't want to give up the shipping container idea, and these guys were already doing it, so once the space became available, we grabbed it," says Whitaker, who inked the lease just two days ago.
"We met with the developers, along with Tony and Delores from Work & Class, and there was instant synergy between all of us," notes Whitaker. "I love what the Work & Class crew is doing, plus Huckleberry Roasters is turning out phenomenal coffee -- and the neighborhood is just ideal for our introduction to the Denver market," he adds. "River North has so much potential, and we love the idea of being a part of what's going on there. I look at this intersection as the gateway to RiNo -- and we want to be the welcome mat."
He and his partners are still working on a name for the restaurant, which Whitaker says should be solidified next week, and he's keeping the concept close to this chest, but the 640-square-foot, nine-foot ceiling plot, he reveals, will, like Basta, have a wood-fired component to it.
"It's going to be sick and a one-of-a-kind restaurant, and while we'll have a wood-fired element to it, it's not going to be a sit-down restaurant -- and it won't be anything like Basta, or anything like anyone has seen yet in Denver," teases Whitaker, who hints that it may very well be standing-room only.
"I can tell you this," he says: "We want to be on the foodie tour of Denver, and we want to be out of the box -- but still the kind of place where you buy a T-shirt." The food, he adds, will be "exquisite and phenomenal and not delivered in an ordinary way" -- and the service, notes Whitaker, will be steeped in "hospitality through the roof."
The restaurant, which will pour beer, wine and cocktails, also trumpets a courtyard, which Whitaker will utilize for private parties. "Of all the spaces we looked at, this is definitely the one that was meant to be," says Whitaker. "It has the shipping containers, a killer courtyard, a gritty, urban-street feel to it, and it's small, which is exactly what we want."