Wednesday, March 4, 2009

7 questions - interview with justin cucci of root down

"We really do give a shit." That's what Justin Cucci, owner of Root Down, told me when I met with him recently. This is apparent because he took time out of his day to meet with me, just a girl with a blog. After making that statement, he told me that although they are busy, the focus will always remain on their roots; good quality food and unpretentious service. If by chance they ever stray, the concept is so strong it will be an easy reminder to get back to the focus. One might think this is a no-brainer but in the service industry, once you're hot, it's ironic how simple it can be to forget humble beginnings. Fortunately, a name like Root Down will make things easier. He went on to say, "when we were first getting started and had only 10 reservations per night we were really able to focus on these things, we want to offer that same quality when we have 100 reservations per night."

You might remember my first post, i kick it root down, about the new Denver hot spot. I ate there in January with some friends and was impressed. I shared my post with Justin (nothing like a little shameless self promotion) and he invited me back to get a better feel of the space, take some pictures and learn a little more about the concept. Now on to part two.

1 Why Denver? I'm from NYC, I spent 27 years there and started my first restaurant. Then moved to Key West for 10 years and started two restaurants. The city (NYC) is emotionally and spiritually exhausting and to an extent, Key West is just the opposite. I needed a happy medium and Denver seemed fit.

2 Tell me more about the concept. Did you always want a mid century modern restaurant or did it evolve? The seed was planted in 2007. I knew I wanted to do seasonal sophisticated food yet a little gritty. I found the garage and added the other half of the building and the interiors were inspired by the architecture. It's such a great corner I wanted to bring life to it and hopefully the neighborhood.

3 Why the name Root Down? It's a jazz term about improve and pays homage to Jimmy Smith, a legendary jazz musician. The term literally means to return to the root of the song after a jam. I want the restaurant to always come back to it's roots regardless of what direction we stray, the concept should pull us back to our beginnings.

4 You're from NYC, does the name have any influence from the Beastie Boys song Root Down? To an extent the restaurant references the Beastie Boys. Growing up in New York and listening to them was an influence on me. I feel like the restaurant has both parts; the sophistication and the grit. The dining room references the jazz side and the bar is more about the Beastie Boys.

5 What's the best kept secret? The patio. We won't open it until it's warmer but it's going to add a new life to the restaurant. A new layer.

6 Can you name a few menu favorites? The organic carrot and red curry soup with pear apple chutney, the seared diver scallops and the veggie burger sliders. The menu will change seasonally with a few favorites that will remain.

7 What about the interiors?
They were spurred from the 50's gas station. I worked with a designer to help me edit and make sense of all my Craigs list and ebay vintage finds. I bought vintage pendant lights, old rotary phones, signs, gym flooring and chairs. We also installed a reclaimed 1950's phone booth located just off the bar. The space definitely inspired the interiors.

photos: all photos taken by kid collective


  1. Mmmm I want to go to there.

  2. Long way from Cheshire Academy. May be seeing you soon.