It is never a given that a new owner, chef and menu will bring a former restaurant institution back to life.
But Frontroom Pizza in Lakewood has a fighting chance.
After the pizzeria closed on Sunday, James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Alex Seidel resumed operations. The Denver chef and his team have begun demolition, and renovations will soon be underway to the kitchen, dining room and, of course, the original salad bar.
Once a bar and new furnishings are in place, Seidel and Denver chef Tim Bender (formerly of Comal Heritage Incubator) plan to reopen the restaurant as Roca by the end of January or the beginning of the month. next.
“It was really about me having a genuine love for this restaurant and not wanting to (lose) another option in our neighborhood,” Seidel said.
A longtime Lakewood resident, Seidel said he remembers coming to Frontroom once a week after his children were born. Since opening, the restaurant has changed hands once before, to property developer Bruce Prior, who passed the reins to Seidel.
“(Prior) deserves kudos for trying to keep a neighborhood gem alive,” Seidel said.
Now he and Bender plan to revamp the menu with fresh pastas, classic Italian dishes and better pizzas. That means two styles: a thin, crispy crust and a thicker, Sicilian-style skillet pizza, both made with Seidel’s Fudmill sourdough, real tomato sauce and fresher ingredients.
And while Seidel has been recognized for its special occasion and high-end restaurants in Denver, Fruition and Mercantile, its fast-casual chicken shop, Chook, may be more of an indicator of Frontroom’s future than Roca’s.
“For me, after opening Chook, I find it equally enjoyable to feed communities with good, simple food that they can rely on, enjoy and afford,” Seidel said. “And to be completely honest, pizza and pasta are two of my favorite foods.”
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