Famed chef and restaurateur, Nello Balan, alongside his daughter Lucy Balan, will introduce Nello Alpine to the town of Aspen next week, likely either Tuesday or Wednesday in the gondola plaza. Balan, originally from Romania's Transylvania, found the space adjacent to the Residences at Little Nell in September and has been working "day and night to totally change it." The building has housed two prior tenants since 2009, including Zeno Aspen.
Attempting to distinguish between the Colorado Nello and its Upper East Side elder sibling in Manhattan, the restaurateur added a bar menu to the new location and spacious slope-side patio seating for après on sunny days. Inside, the intended vibe is "Swiss alpine chic," with a "little bit of a scene." The dining room seats 110, with another 20 seats at the bar and 120 more outside.
The bar menu is inspired by cuisine from the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps. Balan stresses mushrooms throughout the menu, including in the short rib stew with polenta and winter truffles. Prices are said to range between $15 and $50 between the bar and dining room.
Balan and his Manhattan eatery were the focus of a 2012 New York Times review that chronicled the experience of a diner who ordered an off-menu white truffle pasta special that came in at a cool $275 price tag, to the patrons surprise. The restaurateur still owns part of the fancy eatery but is no longer involved in the operation. Aspen's new Nello menu spotlights truffles in several dishes, ranging from the artichoke salad to soups, pizzas and pastas.
Balan arrived in New York about 25 year ago from Switzerland, and has had his eye on Aspen for more than 20 years. He will spend the winter in Aspen primarily, though he is working on two additional restaurants in New York.