Alex Seidel takes over Frontroom Pizza, will reopen it as Rocas by February

It’s never a given that a new owner, chef and menu will bring an old eating institution back to life.

But Frontroom Pizza in Lakewood has a fighting chance.

After the pizza parlor closed on Sunday, James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Alex Seidel took over operations. The Denver chef and his crew have started demolition, and renovations will soon be underway in the kitchen, dining area and, of course, on the original salad bar.

Once a bar and new furniture are in place, Seidel and Denver chef Tim Bender (formerly of Comal Heritage Incubator) plan to reopen the restaurant as Roca’s by late January or early next month.

“It really came down to me having a true love for that restaurant and not wanting to (lose) another option in our neighborhood,” Seidel said.

A longtime Lakewood resident, Seidel said he remembers coming to Frontroom once a week after his kids were born. Since it opened, the restaurant changed hands once before, to real estate developer Bruce Prior, who passed the reins to Seidel.

“(Prior) deserves some kudos for trying to keep a neighborhood gem alive,” Seidel said.

Now he and Bender plan to remake the menu with fresh pasta, classic Italian dishes and better pizza. That means two styles: a thin, crispy crust and a thicker, Sicilian-style pan pizza, both made from Seidel’s own Fudmill sourdough starter, real tomato sauce and more fresh ingredients.

And while Seidel has been recognized for his special occasion and higher-end Denver restaurants Fruition and Mercantile, his fast-casual chicken shop, Chook, might be more of an indicator for the future of Frontroom as Roca’s.

“For me, after opening Chook, I find it just as enjoyable feeding communities simple great food that they can count on, appreciate, afford,” Seidel said. “And to be quite honest, pizza and pasta are two of my favorite things to eat.”

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