Checking in with: Pizzeria Rustica and TAPAteria

TAPAteria, Pizzeria Rustica, Old Colorado City, Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain Food Report

From time to time, we’ll check in with local restaurants to catch up on developments large and small. The other day the Report chatted with chef Jay Gust, the man running the kitchens at Dave Brackett’s dual Old Colorado City restaurants Pizzeria Rustica and TAPAteria.

Gust says the restaurants are doing very well, with wine dinners selling out and regular diners being turned away due to a lack of space. Plus, TAPAteria just won first place for appetizers/tapas in the Indy’s recent Best Of reader poll, along with second in the gluten-free category. Rustica tied for second for best westside neighborhood restaurant, and gained two third-place finishes for place to eat sustainable food and local pizza joint.

The interview has been edited for clarity and content.

Rocky Mountain Food Report: So, what’s been going on with the cocktail program across the two restaurants?

Jay Gust: Right now, we’ve been really trying to educate a lot of our regular clientele on all the aperitifs — really hitting on vermouths and sherries really aggressively. So we’re carrying right now six different vermouths and then we also carry nine sherries. So we’re trying experiment with that.

And then also kind of getting into more fun, creative cocktails; getting away from “Here’s a classic Manhattan.” We’ve been making all of our own bitters, we’ve been making our own ginger ale. We’re working on making a real nice root beer, alcoholic and nonalcoholic.

Why the vermouths and sherries?

Because they’re awesome. They’re just good. They’re in cocktails too. So we’re trying to bring back the classic martini. We are featuring different martinis that actually have more of that 25 percent vermouth, 75 percent gin or vodka split. That’s actually just on the TAPAteria side.

And you’re making your own bitters? Any specific kind?

It’s just a big blend. Actually, Ken, one of my managers over there, he’s huge into distilling, he’s huge into beer making. We’re buying ginger ale and he’s like, “I can make better.” I was like, “Ken, if you want to make ginger ale, you let me know what you need and you just run with it.” And then from there, it’s just like the whole staff’s been working, where it’s like, “What about a lemongrass ginger? What about a cumin-cantaloupe ginger ale?” His skill set helped inspire the staff to go into a lot of cool cocktail making. It’s been awesome.

What about the charcuterie side of things?

As far as the curing, I’m still transferring some of the curing over to [the Pizzeria Rustica] side. Soon enough, we’re actually getting some refrigeration set up for it. That way we can be long-term, nicely controlled, nice quality, right humidity, right temperature — all the good mojo in line so no one gets a tummy ache.

We just knocked out veal bresaola a little while ago. And just trying to just keep it really simplistic whole muscle for now, until down the road if we can learn the basics really, really well, the whole staff, we can start progressing into trying to do some more of the grind side. That’s a definite future endeavor after there’s absolute perfection and idiot-proof on the whole muscle.

What might go in the new refrigerators?

It will be more like the turkey prosciutto. We did a big batch of smoked-lamb spicy paleta, and regular paleta. That turned out great.

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