Cherry Creek seafood restaurateur Sean Huggard is boiling up something new.
The owner of Blue Island Oyster Bar & Seafood is opening a new concept, Oliver’s Italian, at 4950 S. Yosemite St. in the Belleview Square shopping center.
“American Italian food was some of the first stuff I ever learned how to cook as a line cook in high school,” Huggard said. “I’ve always been super fond of it.”
Customers can expect a simple “approachable” Italian menu, with a mix of items such as Americanized chicken parmesan, pinsa (a Roman-style pizza) and a raw bar.
“We’re not sticking ourselves to one type of thing. It’s the idea of Italy as a whole, and also bringing that Americanized Italian food,” Huggard said.
Huggard opened the first Blue Island in Cherry Creek in 2015 and expanded the brand to Lone Tree early last year. Like Blue Island, which sources from its own oyster farm on Long Island, Huggard said Oliver’s will be working with small farmers and importing ingredients from Italy.
He said the menu will be less expensive than many other restaurants in the Denver Tech Center.
“We really felt like it was a niche down there … you have some really great high-end restaurants but they also come with that high-end price tag,” Huggard said. “We want to come in, offer that same quality, but be a bit more approachable.”
The 3,000-square-foot space was formerly home to Tokyo Joe’s. Huggard said he’s investing about $2 million in the buildout, which includes adding a 1,200-square-foot outdoor patio . The shopping center is anchored by King Soopers, with other restaurant tenants including Morning Story and Glacier Homemade Ice Cream.
Huggard, who lives in the southern suburbs, was drawn to opening another concept there after choosing Lone Tree for the second Blue Island.
“We want to be in the suburbs but give that urban environment where you feel like it’s a night out,” Huggard said. “When we brought Blue Island down here we were so welcomed as something unique, different, something local.”
He said the DTC has a good mix of working professionals stopping in for lunch, a dense residential scene at night and plenty of free parking. Huggard said he anticipates opening in early fall. Afterwards he hopes to expand Oliver’s, ideally adding a Cherry Creek location, and growing Blue Island out of state.
He said all of his restaurant concepts are created with a goal of transporting people. With Blue Island, the Massachusetts native wants customers to feel like they’re in Cape Cod. With Oliver’s, he’s aiming for the Italian peninsula.
“It’s us channeling the spirit and romance of Italy,” Huggard said. “The idea of transferring people to a culinary experience is important to me … How do you let somebody escape for just the moment?”