RidgeGate Up Close
Jeff McCleary, General Manager, Via Baci Restaurant
“RidgeGate Up Close” is our series of interviews with people who make RidgeGate a more vibrant place. Read the unexpected stories of residents, workers and local leaders who live and work here. Know someone who has a unique perspective or life in RidgeGate? Contact us at email@example.com.
A big thank you to Sarah Neumann Photography for conducting and photographing our RidgeGate Up Close interviews! This month: Jeff McCleary, General Manager of Via Baci, a quaint bistro in RidgeGate’s commercial district featuring modern Italian food and impeccable wines. Via Baci’s 800 degree wood-fired oven whips up mouthwatering treats like authentic Neapolitan pizzas with hand pressed thin crusts made from flour important from the Vesuvius Valley in Italy. And here are a few insider tips…select wines by the bottle are 40% off on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and kids under 9 eat for $2 on Sundays. Jeff and his team continue to make Via Baci one of the hottest gathering spots in Lone Tree.
#1. You’re stranded on a desert island. What five foods would you want with you?
Jeff: “Cheese, bread, salami, mustard, pasta. Can I cook? Do I get to catch and eat seafood? Are there coconut trees? Does coffee count as food?”
#2: How long have you been the GM of Via Baci and what brought you to the restaurant?
Jeff: “I’m originally the suburbs of Chicago. Life took me to New Orleans, Atlanta, and North Carolina. I ended up in Golden in the mid 90’s. We opened Via Baci in early 2007. I was one of the chefs and became the GM in 2008. I left in 2012 to open one of our sister restaurants – ignite! – in the ball park neighborhood in downtown. I came back to Via Baci in 2014.
I’ve worked for Concept Restaurants, our parent company, off and on since I moved to Colorado. One of the partners called me up to see if I’d be interested in opening a “fast casual, counter service Neapolitan Pizza Place in Lone Tree.” I loved the idea – making Mozzarella fresh every day, real Neapolitan style pizza, wood fired ovens, simple sauces, etc. We changed from counter service to full service within about three months, built a bar, trained a wait staff, and changed up the menu. We kept the original concept of the pizzas, but added proteins and other items that could handle our 800 degree oven.”
#3: What do YOU order when you eat at Via Baci?
Jeff: “When I left to open ignite! downtown, I dreamt of Via Baci’s spaghetti, Chicken Cavattapi, and the Pepperoni Pizza. When I came back I ate spaghetti every day for months. I love it.”
#4. What does “Via Baci” mean and why do you think this was chosen to be the restaurant’s name?
Jeff: “Via Baci means “Street of Kisses” – it flows, it’s a nice name. It’s a great conversation piece.”
#5. Describe a memorable experience on the job at Via Baci.
Jeff: “I have a lot of great memories from here. Unfortunately, the bad ones sometimes rise to the top. The one that always comes back to me is when I dropped a birthday cake right in front of the birthday girl. Her husband dropped the cake off earlier as a surprise. She was dining with her girlfriends. She cried…”
#6. Do you have any special hobbies?
Jeff: “I love to eat, drink and cook.”
#7. What drink do you order at a bar?
Jeff: “Usually a bourbon based drink on a bar’s specialty menu, or a craft beer that sounds good. There are so many to choose from.”
#8. Where is your favorite place that you have traveled to and why?
Jeff: “I went to Spain for about two weeks this past year. What do you mean ‘why’? Spain for two weeks! We rented a car, swam in the Mediterranean…”
#9. What book(s) are on your nightstand?
Jeff: “Right now I’ve got some trade magazines, the Toro Bravo cookbook, and Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow, which I haven’t started yet.”
#10. Finish this sentence: “Happiness is _____.”
Jeff: “…being mostly content with what you have, or can have. I’ve got a loving wife, a loving daughter and two granddaughters. I have a job that I love 95% of the time, a staff that is like family to me, regulars and guests that I truly enjoy interacting with, and a business that I’m proud of, because it’s both a successful and a quality product.”