Frank Bonanno replaces Lous Food Bar with Italian cocktail lounge

The staff behind Green Russell wants to breathe some new life into an old corner.

Last week, Bonanno Concepts opened Salita, a new Italian cocktail lounge, in the former Lou’s Food Bar space at 701 Grant St. in Governor’s Park. It will be staffed with the beverage team from the former Larimer Square bar, which closed on the last day of 2022.

“We’d become a really tight-knit team at Green Russell, and we all sort of put to rest one of our favorite jobs we’ve had and started on this new adventure together,” said Addison Blythe, Green Russell’s former lead bartender and Salita’s new general manager.

Salita means “ascension” in Italian, and the new cocktail lounge is centered around a painting called “Ascend” by Quang Ho, which hangs in the middle of the bar. Bonanno Concepts owns both watering holes.

“This is a spiritual successor to Green Russell in a lot of ways,” Blythe said.

There are nods to Green Russell and Russell’s Smokehouse throughout the bar, including the Kleinville ice machine that Blythe described as “the beating heart of Green Russell,” which they will make ice molds and carve their own ice with. Although because of the corner spot with windows, it won’t have the same speakeasy feel as Green Russell.

“Our drink-making ethos will be the same,” Blythe said. “Our philosophies on cocktails and making the best drinks with the best products that we can won’t change.”

The staff has made a cocktail list of their favorite Italian creations, including the “Sicilian” with gin, Italicus, lemon, orange, pistachio, bitters and prosecco and the “Ionian Martini” with gin, olive oil, bianco vermouth, house limoncello, balsamic reduction, tomato, mozzarella and basil. There’s also a rotation of classic cocktails and espresso-based drinks, like the “Early Bird Martini” with Irish whiskey, butter, Cynar, coffee liqueur, amaro, vanilla and cream. And for small bites, guests can chew on prosciutto, bar nuts, olives and cheeses.

Later this week, Blythe said the bar will open in the morning for coffee service.

“Our menu also features low ABV and zero ABV cocktails because there should be a place for everybody at the bar, while still being able to enjoy well thought out, intentionally crafted beverages,” Blythe said.

The space is much smaller than Green Russell with enough room to accommodate 32 guests, including nine seats at the bar and intimate booths throughout. Most of the bar took over Lou’s former kitchen. And Salita is joining Bonanno’s other three other concepts on the same block: Mizuna, Luca and Vesper Lounge.

“We want you to be able to spend a whole day here,” Blythe said. “You can stop by Salita before dinner at Luca or Mizuna, and then head over to Vesper Lounge for a nightcap.”

In addition to Salita, Bonanno Concepts recently took over the beloved El Rancho restaurant in Evergreen, which the restaurant group reopened this month with a new menu.

Lou’s Food Bar closed at the end of 2022 after a long ride. The Nashville hot chicken restaurant originally opened in Sunnyside in 2010, before closing in 2017 and moving to Governor’s Park in 2019. Frank Bonanno, the restaurateur behind Bonanno Concepts, will keep the restaurant’s food stall, Lou’s Hot and Naked, in Denver Milk Market, though.

Salita: 701 Grant St., Denver; Open: Thurs. and Sun. from 5 to 10 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. from 5 to 11 p.m.;

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