New team, tastes complement old traditions at Riveria
New Riviera Supper Club manager Missy Sickels describes one of those “only in Glenwood” moments on a recent weekend night that helped solidify her decision to join the management team at the iconic downtown dining room along with new executive chef Mitch Levy.
Angela Hancock, who grew up in the building at 702 Grand where the Riviera is located and whose brother, Tony Rosa, recently decided to sell the neighboring Peppo Nino restaurant, was out celebrating her birthday at the Riviera when she received a surprise serenade.
Heidi Paul, a renowned soprano from Glenwood Springs, also happened to be dining out at the Riviera that night and began belting out an Italian opera in honor of the Rosa family and Hancock’s big day.
A little later, Levy emerged from the kitchen to put on his best Elvis impersonation for a round of “Happy Birthday.”
It’s just the way Sickels remembered it growing up in Glenwood Springs and enjoying a night out at the Riviera with her own family, including parents Eugene “Geno” and Sue Yellico, longtime former owners of Geno’s Liquors in West Glenwood.
“It’s just such a landmark,” Sickels said. “We still have people who were here 50 years ago that come in because they remember the Riviera.”
Sickels had managed Geno’s for the past five years after her father passed away and before the family decided to sell the business. What started as a bartending and waiting job at the Riviera turned into an invitation to run the place by part owner Mike Mercatoris and Levy.
It’s all part of the Riviera’s evolutionary return to its past since Mercatoris, along with ZG Hospitality partner Henry Zheng, bought the historic restaurant from former owner Colleen Stuart last year.
In addition to bringing in Sickels and working with Levy to revamp the menu, Mercatoris recently completed a remodel that includes a more open connection between the dining room and bar area. They also exposed and refinished the old wooden floor that had been carpeted over for many years.
The newest feature is a state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled wine bar that allows for dispensing by the glass and even “flights” of wine samples.
“The wine bar is a huge addition for Glenwood Springs,” Mercatoris said. “Reds and whites should be kept at different temperatures, and this way we can sell even the most expensive wines by the glass.”
Otherwise, once a bottle is opened it typically should be consumed in short order or kept at a constant temperature rather than sitting out overnight.
“Once you re-cork a bottle, within a day it just doesn’t taste right,” explains Levy, who brings his many years experience on the Roaring Fork Valley’s restaurant scene to the Riviera after closing his own restaurant, Basalt’s CuVée, earlier this year.
“I believe we do have the most wine by the glass of any restaurant in the area, and maybe on the Western Slope,” he said.
Levy had owned and operated CuVée for over seven years and had known Mercatoris for some 20 years through their various restaurant associations up valley in Aspen and Snowmass Village.
“Our philosophies about restaurants are very similar and we’ve always wanted to work together,” said Mercatoris, who did work briefly with Levy as part of the Roaring Fork Originals, a project aimed at giving area restaurant owners more collective buying power, prior to the recession.
Together, they worked on a new Riviera menu that combined some of the best CuVée had to offer, along with traditional “supper club” fare that the Riviera had become known for, including house favorite “Mabel’s recipe” Prime Rib, in honor of the late Mabel Trembley, who had been part of the early Riviera crew.
Each menu item is paired with a specific glass of wine. Levy also makes his own cheese, and all desserts are prepared in-house.
“I really believed in what these two were going to do,” said Sickels of her decision to become general manager, adding that, for her part, she’s all about a healthy dose of “good hospitality.”
Levy said he, too, had other options after he closed CuVée.
“This just means a lot more to me,” he said. “I really believe this is what a supper club would look like in 2014. It looks the way we wanted it to feel, and it tastes the way we wanted it to taste.”
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