Italian brewer and entrepreneur Alex Liberati is thinking huge with his eponymous new Denver brewery and restaurant. The operatic-sounding Liberati “Osteria and Oenobeers” opened earlier this week on Curtis Park’s Champa Street. It’s set across 12,000 square feet inside the former Golden Bell Press building, but the empire-sized space spreads to nearly 10,000 more square feet on a fountain-springing patio, followed by 40 American-sized parking spots on the neighboring lot.
Big, too, in spirit, Liberati is billing itself as the first “oenobeer” brewery in the world, which is a term coined by the owner to mean beer made with wine. Before choosing the middle of America for this Italian grape beer bar and Roman food destination, Alex Liberati searched the world over for a landing spot, starting in Singapore but ending up in Denver with a near city block. Along the way, he also had an associate document the process and write a book.
From “Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers, a Little History:” First, they go to Singapore [...] They live in a hotel room for six months. Francesco and Alex don’t have a chalkboard, so they write their ideas on the windows. [...] They have Plan B: go to Hong Kong. Plan C: go to Australia. Plan D: go back to Italy. [...] After six months, they conclude it won’t really work in Singapore and they decide to move again. Francesco returns to Italy. It has been an intense six months cooped up in a hotel room. Alex leaves for the U.S.
Behind the grand marble and wood bar are 27 wine-beer taps and a dozen or so more handles for batched Italian cocktails — MiTos, Americanos, spritzes, Bellinis. To comply with American tax law, the oenobeers are made with grain, hops, yeast, and water and up to 49 percent fermented grapes or juice. The jammiest of them is a Verba Volant made from 49 percent Malbec.
Chefs Marta Biasotti, Federica Ansani, and Brad Buchman make all of Liberati’s bread and pasta in-house. As for their dinner dishes, many start traditional but veer off — a couscous crusted cannoli stuffed with savory sea bass and monkfish or a “lasagna” ravioli with ragú on the inside. For lunch and the bar menu, Biasotti has created a comforting sampietrini pizza pocket stuffed with cod or eggplant parmesan or stewed beef.
Back when Liberati’s opening was first announced, the business plan included adjoining old-country shops. No word yet on those, but the restaurant’s industrial-scale kitchen is stocked for gelato service, salumi production, cheese making, and more.
The oversized building itself is still a blank canvas, somewhat. Inspired by the Italian Futurism movement of the early 20th Century, Liberati creative director Paul Vismara has created a handful of colorful posters for the dining room, and he plans to eventually fill the entire space. From the food presentation to the beer bottles and restaurant design, Futurist artwork seems to unify the project at large. And the philosophy might indicate what Liberati’s after, in Denver and beyond.
From that oenobeer book: The Italian Futurists were a movement of artists and thinkers who embraced the new, the unconventional and the modern. They took inspiration from the technological innovations like airplanes, trains, motorcycles, cars [...] These discoveries breathed new life into cities infecting the Futurists with an anticipatory look forward, a desire to uncover something new around the next corner.
Status: Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers is now open daily at 2403 Champa Street. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until midnight on weekends.