Restaurant Development & Design

NOV-DEC 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 7 5 J ustin Cucci really didn't want to do an- other restaurant. He and his team at Edible Beats had already developed four Denver hot spots, each a unique concept and all involving demanding, multiyear adaptive reuse projects. He felt he had neither the time nor the energy for another one. But once he saw the open fifth floor of the new five-story office building going up next to Linger, his restaurant in the city's Lower Highlands district, he knew he'd be doing one more after all. Three and a half years later, El Five made its debut as the newest addition to the Edible Beats portfolio. Opened May 1 of this year, the 300-seat restaurant serves Cucci's take on tapas in a vibrant space bookended by unobstructed views of downtown Denver on the east side and the mountains and sunset on the west side. A 660-square-foot terrace along the city side instantly put El Five on the short list of top spots in the city for outdoor dining. The fact that it overlooks Linger's popular outdoor dining deck three stories below only adds to the vibe and visual appeal. For Cucci and his team, this par- ticular project was an anomaly. Being a new building — and an office building at that — there was no conceptual starting point or architectural history with which to frame the concept or the design. "For me, the space always drives the concept. I never go into a project with a concept in mind," Cucci says. "I only have a love for a building or a space. Then, I start developing it, and then the concept crystalizes, usually last. Part of the reason for that is that I don't necessarily want a concept or a theme. I want stories that are nonlinear. I like bringing disparate things together and hopefully doing it well enough that it creates its own unique story. That's why I love adaptive reuse projects so much. My biggest struggle with this building was that there was no history. What was here, however, was a great space and amazing views. Ultimately, I felt that it needed something exciting but not overwhelm- ing. I wanted the views and the experi- ence to be at one with the food. Some- thing about the small-plates approach just felt right, and in the landscape of Denver, there weren't many places doing tapas — or doing it at the level that I felt it could be done." Middle Eastern patterning is featured on a wall that partially encloses the hot kitchen. Pieces of steel plate were built into a geometric grid pattern that adds visual interest and provides shelf space for plates and other items. All photos by Adam Larkey Photography, courtesy of Ricca Design Studio Justin Cucci

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