Marco Albertine and Tony Hopson, both natives of Italy, long to have dinner at their nonas’ homes.
“It was the happiest time of our lives when we saw our grandparents with glasses of wine in their hands,” Hopson said. “For most Italians, we want that on everyone else.”
So, they have decided to bring Tennyson Street to Italy.
This week, business partners are opening Voghera Ristorante and Aparicena, an Italian Small Plates restaurant at 3963 Tennyson St. The unit was previously home to The Way Back, which closed last year due to the pandemic.
“If we can share some pleasant times with that Italian lifestyle in Milan or Livorno, from where my nonna is, if we can pass it on to our neighbors here, that’s it.”
Albertine named the restaurant after his hometown of Voghera, which is just 40 miles from Milan. He moved to Denver in 2014 after living in Orlando and working for Disney for a while. Locally, he worked at a variety of fine-dining Italian restaurants including Firenze a Tavola and Il Fornio at the Denver Tech Center, where he met most of his current staff.
“The traditional Italian immigrant story is that when you come here, you either work for the crowd or the restaurant,” Albertine said.
Hopson was born in Pisa but grew up in Denver. The business partners met when Albertine was serving at Firenze e Tavola, a Parisian upscale Italian concept located in the basement of a Berkeley restaurant. Hopson was a regular, and the two quickly became friends.
When the pandemic hit, Albertine decided he was ready to start working for himself. He asked Hopson if he knew anyone who might be interested in investing in a restaurant, and Hopson himself decided to jump on board.
Hopson works full-time as a senior manager at Cisco, so “Marco will run the business, and I will make profits,” he said. The two have also brought their wives Nicole and Diane to help.
Albertine landed on the idea of opening an “Aparicena”, which in Italian is a cross between happy hour and dinner. It became popular in Milan, and is a casual dining experience with small plates, wines and cocktails.
He plans to open the restaurant from Monday to Saturday, starting with “aperitivo” or happy hour from 3-5 pm and followed by “apericena” from 5-9:30 pm. The bar will be open till 11 pm or midnight.
Voghera will serve Italian cocktails, such as the Aperol Spirit and Negronis, and wines from 20 different regions of Italy “that you usually can’t find in a liquor store,” Albertine said.
The restaurant will have a rotating menu, featuring dishes such as squash and gorgonzola bruschetta in the fall, risottos and soups in the winter, and seafood and charcuterie in the summer. Homemade pasta, as well as desserts made by a French-trained pastry chef, will be available year-round.
Next year, Albertine said they plan to launch a “Giro d’Italia” dinner program. It will highlight food and drink specific to a different region of Italy each month, “just like Stanley Tucci does in his new show,” Albertine said.
The co-owners designed the space to be an informal area with a bar in front, a semi-formal area with more tables in the middle, and a formal area with white table cloths, velvet booths, and intimate lighting. He has also added decorative details from the home, including plates from Hopson’s grandmother from the 18th century.
“When you’re here, you’re coming to my living room, not my restaurant,” Albertine said. “Put down your phone, enjoy a glass of wine and plate you’ve never heard of, and be a good neighbor.”
Albertine and Hopson, who said they self-funded the project, signed a seven-year lease for the 2,869-square-foot restaurant in July, saying the rent on Tennyson Street would range from $30 per square foot. is more. He was represented in the deal by Chris Lindgren of Transworld Commercial Real Estate.
The co-owners both knew they wanted to find a location on Tennyson Street. Hopson lives across the street, and Albertine falls in love with him after working at Firenze.
“Tennyson Street needs a little variety and some great food in addition to the many pizza and burger spots here,” Hopson said. “I think people are craving a restaurant where people recognize them and know their names.”
“I don’t think my concept would be the same if it wasn’t on Tennyson,” Albertine said. “Voghera needs Tennyson, and Tennyson needs Voghera. We want to continue the tradition this street is known for, small businesses with owners or operators that you can find there every day.
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