Getting that first phone call or email from a television producer is just the beginning of the transformation a restaurant can take by appearing on the small screen.
After receiving a detailed email about the blow-by-blow of filming, the eatery will have to close for a few days to accommodate the process. Film crews then invade the space with people, boom mics and cameras before shooting take upon take. The result though, is priceless for so many restaurants — especially those without a hefty marketing budget. Most places see a noticeable increase in foot traffic when a show airs, and even for years after in reruns.
According to tvfoodmaps.com, 123 Colorado restaurants have appeared on shows like Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods,” Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise,” Sundance’s “Ludo Bites America,” and the Cooking Channel’s “Vinny and Ma Eat America.”
Area chefs have been competitors on both “Chopped” and “Top Chef,”and the current season of the latter was filmed across Colorado, featuring competing chefs Carrie Baird (Bar Dough) and Brother Luck (Four), as well as Denver culinary darlings Alex Seidel, Troy Guard, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Keegan Gerhard and Hosea Rosenberg among the guest judges.
Many Mile High locales that have made their screen debuts are those that residents already frequent, like speakeasy Williams & Grahamand eateries Steuben’s, Vesta, Colt & Gray, Parisi and Comida. Some are beloved old-school favorites, like The Fort, Beau Jo’s, Cherry Cricket, Chubby’s and the Buckhorn Exchange. Each has appeared at least one program; some have appeared on several.
And while it’s always a thrill to see one of your hometown haunts featured on national television, how does an appearance on national television really affect business?
Guy Fieri has been quoted as saying that being on his show would augment traffic “like 200 percent.” The actual number is probably closer to a 20 percent bump every time a show airs or re-airs, but “Diners” does have some 675,000 viewers for each 20-minute segment.
So does something special happen after Fieri pulls up in his red ’67 convertible Camaro?
“Without a doubt,” said Colorado’s doyenne of soul food, Priscilla Smith, when asked if she has noticed an increase in business after appearing on Triple D in 2013. “Every time we do a show (she also has appeared on several local news outlets and in a PBS documentary), there’s an instant reaction; sometimes within the same day or the next day.”
In fact, part of the decision to move her restaurant, Cora Faye’s, from its longtime Denver location to Aurora was for more spacious digs. Smith was pressed to accommodate the sheer number of guests eager for her tasty soul food; tour buses full of people would show up without advance warning. The lack of space in the previous location left hungry diners frustrated, given the show’s popularity.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Some people have logs of which restaurants on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ they’ve been to; some only want to order what Guy Fieri ate; some want a photo taken with the chef; or they only eat where he eats. They come from all over. We even had a guy here from Ireland!”
For some chefs calling Denver home, a TV appearance is another building block in their career. Shahin Afsharian-Campuzano, chef/partner at Stapleton’s Salati Italian Street Food, began his globetrotting career cooking with culinary celeb Joel Robuchon in Italy and Monte Carlo (where he earned a coveted Michelin star) before moving to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and then to Denver as Salati’s founding chef.
Afsharian-Campuzano appeared in 2016 on “Chopped,” where he beat out other contestants, advancing to the final round of the episode. Appearing on the show, he said, opened the door to even more opportunities.
“I was immediately approached by Elway’s at the Ritz-Carlton to do consulting work,” he said, “and TC Clark, Salati’s founder, invited me to be a partner in the restaurant, so now I’m part owner.”
Though Salati had already found a niche in the Stapleton neighborhood as one of the few family-owned restaurants in the area, its regulars were excited about the chef’s TV debut.
“We had a viewing party, of course, and our followers came in and wanted photos and everything,” the chef says. Today, their following remains as strong as ever, drawn to the eatery offering from-scratch, gourmet Italian dishes at affordable prices — and the publicity from being featured on a TV program never hurts.
For Pittinger of Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, who first appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” in 2010, the resulting kudos were just the beginning.
“We were kind of a phenomenon in the food cart business, we were doing something unique and interesting. Exciting street food at that time was just starting in Denver,” he says.
Pittinger had been running his creative hot dog cart on the 16th Street Mall for about five years, garnering praise from several local outlets, when he was approached by the show.
“Oh, my God, how exciting that was!” he said.
Bourdain’s episode aired the day Pittinger signed the lease on his Ballpark neighborhood’s brick-and- mortar location, which now employs 20 people. He’s since appeared on “Bizarre Foods” (Zimmern ate the ubiquitous Elk and Jalapeño Cheddar Brat with cream cheese and caramelized onions) and its sister show, “Delicious Destinations,” as well as “Vinny and Ma Eat America” (featuring “Jersey Shore” star Vinny Guadagnino and his mother) and “Ludo Bites America.” Pittinger also received write-ups in publications like The New York Times, Esquire, Maxim and The Wall Street Journal.
Pittinger notes that his dogs were popular already, but there was an uptick in business each time a show debuted or re-aired. “With the amount of shows out there, we didn’t notice a giant flush of business from being on TV,” he said. “But people will mention that they saw us on a show, and little by little, those planted seeds grow your business.”
At El Chingon, Chef David Lopez said, “We’ve had a great response from all our television appearances. When our guests walk in and say they saw us on TV … we know the shows absolutely had a positive impact on how the public has perceived us. It kind of puts you on a little higher level in peoples’ eyes.”
El Chingon has been featured on various programs — on CNN for a segment on family-owned businesses, and on several live episodes locally on 9 News with anchor Belen de Leon, who champions area Latin businesses. Most recently, in 2017, El Chingon was featured on “Vinny and Ma Eat America.”
Being given the exposure, Lopez said, was worth the inconvenience of production. “The restaurant has to close for a number of days for filming,” Lopez said, “but it allowed us to showcase our craft to a whole new audience.”
Though the development of his new project, Cultura, was already underway (and it’s considered one of this year’s most anticipated openings), Lopez agreed that the appearances have been a boon to business. “It’s generated interest in what we do, for potential future sites, and has given us additional exposure.”
For some restaurants, appearing on a show has ensured their success.
“When we opened our doors, we were young, we were really small, and we didn’t have extra money for marketing,” said Ben Jacobs, owner of Tocabe. When they were selected for “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” “It was like winning the lottery,” he said. “Business exploded, it was huge. It put us on the map, not just locally, but nationally, too.”
Tocabe opened its doors in late 2008 with just 11 employees, but when the show aired in 2011, they had to double that number. Jacobs estimates the show has run at least 100 times, and seven years later, the restaurant is still getting guests who mention that they saw the clip on TV.
“It’s amazing the following Fieri has,” said Jacobs. “People like him, he’s relatable. They come in and want to know what he was like and want to take a photo with the stencil on the wall.”
Jacobs has taken to visiting restaurants from “Diners” on his own travels. “It’s created this cool little community across the country, he said. “I’ve made multiple friends — restaurateurs who have been on the show, too.”
What does the future hold for Denver’s restaurants with regards to upcoming television spots?
Savvy spots are hosting viewing parties for their debuts with themed dishes created by the chefs on the show. LoDo’s Bavarian-style beer hall, Rhein Haus, now features a special, the “Top Chef Wurst,” in honor of the Jan. 11 episode. In the show, the collaboration between “Top Chef” contestant Brother Luck and Rhein Haus’ own Pete Fjonse featured house-made cheddarwurst topped with bacon jam, dill pickles, sour cream and a fried egg, and will be available through the show’s final episode in mid-March.
Today, there’s no doubt that the future of Denver is fit for foodies.
November 8th, 2017
As they celebrate their second anniversary, Salati Italian Street Food, in the Stapleton neighborhood, is unveiling their fall menu. Salati is one of those little treasures of a restaurant found in unlikely places. Nestled in and among boutiques, big box stores, a comedy club and a movie theater in the Shops at Northfield off of I-70 and Quebec, the restaurant stands out for the surprises it offers.
Salati was one of the early locally- and independently-owned restaurants to go into the Stapleton neighborhood, once the site of Denver’s airport. It is now joined by other restaurants throughout Stapleton owned by well-known local chefs including Troy Guard and Lon Symensma. Holding court on the north side of I-70, Salati’s most unexpected surprise is that the Italian-Mexican-Persian Executive Chef and part-owner, Shahin Afsharian-Campuzano, is a Michelin-star chef (earned while working in Monte Carlo), and was a finalist on Food Network’s Chopped last fall. Having worked all over the world, Chef Shahin was happy to make his home in Colorado with his wife and to have full creativity over a menu he could be fully invested in with Salati.
The look of the restaurant is another surprise, starting with the curved, vaulted ceiling meant to be reminiscent of the inside a wine barrel. The wood and stone bar area is modelled after neighborhood restaurants in Italy the owners visited – the kind of comfortable places locals go to and languish over meals prepared by chefs they know well. With an extensive wine selection, attentive service and the warm, open-arms attitude of Chef Shahin, Salati has that feeling of a neighborhood restaurant down some lane in Italy – that just happens to be in an outdoor mall in Denver.
Chef Shahin has crafted the new fall menu to include some old favorites that the regulars demand as well as new dishes. Barbajuan Fried Ravioli with Italian sausage, spinach, basil, risotto, cheese blend and roasted garlic alfredo is one of the most popular dishes on the “Street Food” shareables menu, so-named because Italian food vendors sell this and other items that are convenient to eat while strolling. The Piadina Flatbread Sandwiches are another item that will never leave the menu, being one of the cornerstones of Salati. The Basilicata Piadina, for instance, combines grilled lemon-rosemary chicken, red onion, tomato, cucumber, creamy pesto sauce, pancetta and cheese, wrapped in a house-made flatbread and grilled.
New dishes include the shareable Pepe Scallops & Orzo (three jumbo scallops with a black pepper-parmesan crust, creamy basil pesto orzo and a tomato reduction); Risotto & Shrimp, a gluten-free option with sautéed garlic tiger shrimp, pesto risotto, green peas, zucchini and squash noodles and a roasted red pepper crema; and the Porchetta Carbonara Tortelliniwhich uses a medallion of Salati’s signature 36-hour pork porchetta as its base, topped with fresh pasta ricotta tortellini, pancetta, red onions, green peas, roasted garlic cream sauce and an egg yolk. It’s a stacked take on pasta carbonara.
Thankfully, the housemade Tiramisu (the best we’ve had, anywhere, hands down) isn’t going anywhere, nor are the Piccolo Cannolis. One of my favorite dishes from the weekend brunch menu makes an appearance for dessert – the Blueberry Zeppoles, little dough fritters Chef Shahin’s mother made for him growing up. There’s also a Chocolate Bomb and Limoncello-Mascarpone Cake and more.
In addition to weekend brunch, running 11am-3pm with a wide variety of options, Salati also serves lunch during the week from 11am-4pm. With a pared down menu, the Salati Express Lunch takes on a more casual format. Guests walk down the line, along Salati’s open kitchen and order Piadina Flatbread sandwiches, salads, pasta or soup, interacting with the kitchen staff creating their option. By the time, the guest reaches the end of the line to pay, their order is ready to go.
Salati is a great place for a quick bite, to linger over a meal, to take a group or to organize a big gathering (they also do catering). As another added bonus, there ‘s plenty of free parking in the lots around Northfield. Follow their Facebook pagefor news their bi-weekly wine tasting seminars and of themed dinners.
Salati Italian Street Food is located in the Shops at Northfield, off of I-70 (take either the Quebec or Central Park Blvd. exits) at 8270 Northfield Blvd., Denver.
Salati Italian Street Food by
He calls it a “a labor of love,” referring to the October opening of Salati Italian Street Food in Northfield. It started with love, too, when restauranteur T.C. Clark and his wife went to his homeland, Italy, for their honeymoon. They encountered a lot of street food, sold off of carts or out of little huts where “a little Italian grandma would slide open a window and, boom, the smell would hit you,” recalls Clark. One street food, the piadina, stood out to the couple. Flat bread thrown onto a hot stone bubbled up before being wrapped around meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauces. The couple was hooked and wanted to bring the idea back to Colorado.
Besides being delicious, Clark really loved the idea of walking up to a vendor and getting authentic, fresh food they could customize with the ingredients they wanted. Despite running Milo’s, a sports bar in South Denver, Clark couldn’t get the idea out of his head of opening a place based on the concept of “Salati,”slang for “savory.” To Clark, that meant food that is enjoyed as it is seen, heard and tasted.
To bring that full experience to life, Clark hired his Culinary Director, Shahin Afshanian Campuzano, who has experience cooking all over the world. “I told him ‘here’s the concept but you’re a classically-trained chef. You’re going to get to play and bring your skill set to Salati’ and he has, he’s amazing,” says Clark.
During the day, one side of Salati focuses on express meals where diners can choose from a piadina bread, pasta or salad base, adding a protein (including a pork porchetta which has had 32 hours of preparation), sauces or dressings and vegetable additions. Come evening, Salati becomes something more. While diners can still take advantage of the express side, they can also relax in the lounge area with a full bar and menu of Italian style tapas, designed to be shared.
The idea of communal food where people would have a drink, share food and be together came from Clark’s childhood. “There were huge tables, everyone standing around eating, waving their arms in the air, being Italians, having a good time, eating good food…that was my family,” says Clark.
While the burgeoning development of the Northfield area was a big draw to Clark in locating the first Salati (he hopes to open more locations around the Metro Denver area), it was really the broad-ranging demographics that were the appeal. Clark says, “We’ve met young kids to retirees and they’ve welcomed us with open arms. It has been over-the-top unexpected but really appreciated.”
SALATI ITALIAN STREET FOOD NOW OPEN IN NORTHFIELD STAPLETON
Rotisserie chicken and porchetta.
Salati means savory or salted in Italian, and a new eatery called Salati Italian Street Food is bringing savory Mediterranean bites to Northfield Stapleton. Salati opened today at 11 a.m. (in the space that was formerly Euro Cafe) with a concept built around piadina and other street fare that owner TC Clark found while on his honeymoon in Italy.
Clark already owns and operates Milo’s Sports Tavern at the corner of Evans Avenue and South Monaco Parkway, but Salati is quite a departure from the vibe at his laid-back, all-American neighborhood bar. His new place, nestled into the Northfield outdoor mall, also has a full bar, but service is built on the fast-casual model and the menu ranges far from sports-bar fare. Instead, culinary director Shahin Afsharian Campuzano has created a menu based on Clark’s vision, encompassing roasted meats, flatbread sandwiches and other street food of Italy, like barbajuan (a type of fried ravioli native to the area where France and Italy meet), arancini, and involtini.
The piadina, pasta and salads can be topped with proteins ranging from grilled sausage or mahi mahi to roast vegetables and deli meats.The bar program is highlighted with a range of local craft beers. Salati is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Keep reading for more photos from opening day.
Hand-tossed piadina flatbread.
Salati Italian Street Food Opens in Northfield
No one does flatbread quite like the Italians, and the piadinas at the newly opened Salati Italian Street Food in Northfield are no exception. Piadinas, which means “savory” in Italian, are softer, chewier cousins of pita and they work beautifully as bookends to a satisfying sandwich. T.C. Clark, the owner of Salati (as well as Milos Sports Tavern in Denver) fell in love with the sandwiches in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Determined to bring the concept back to the States, he launched the fast-casual Salati.
Diners customize their sandwiches by choosing from seven proteins including grilled skirt steak, rosemary chicken, and pork porchetta; adding sides such as cheese and veggies; and finishing with up to two different sauces. My favorite combination (pictured) is grilled steak with roasted veggies, fresh tomato, spinach, arugula, and fresh mozzarella topped with Alfredo and basil pesto.
Build-your-own salads and pastas round out the menu, along with wines, craft beers, and cocktails. Salati brings something new to Northfield—and it might just be what you need fuel up for holiday shopping.
8270 Northfield Blvd. #1485, 303-307-1695
Salati Italian Street Food has also been featured in Examiner.com, StapletonMoms.com and CluelessMama.com.