For Breckenridge residents Justin and Teryn Guadagnoli, the journey of buying a restaurant to call their own was an unexpectedly frustrating process.
The Guadagnolis, both 30 and originally from Colorado Springs, first moved to Breckenridge five years ago with the intention of immediately buying a business, but it would take more than four years before their dreams of restaurant ownership would become a reality.
“We literally tried to buy everything in town, even things people didn’t know were for sale,” Teryn said. “This was our favorite place and we never thought we were going to get the chance to buy it. It’s an incredible opportunity. We feel so lucky to walk into a new business that already had such an amazing staff. It’s like a dream come true.”
Since taking over Modis at 113 S. Main St. in Breckenridge in September of last year, the Guadagnolis have wasted no time in creating an atmosphere all their own. Both the kitchen and the bar serve more as a laboratory than a traditional restaurant.
“We’re all curious about what we do, we’re having fun and trying to do something for the whole town because we’re more than just a mountain,” Teryn said. “We have a lot of great restaurants and a lot to offer, but this isn’t Vail or Aspen, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
The Modis staff has embraced their new owners’ sense of adventure as well, with bartenders Dustin Hoeft and Jesse McKenzie conducting a lot of cocktail alchemy.
Although the Modis drink menu features a robust selection of 46 rotating cocktails — with more to come in about a week, 44 wines by the glass plus more than 130 bottles in the cellar and arguably the largest selection of Colorado-distilled spirits of any other local bar, Modis is quickly attracting attention for its cold-smoked cocktails.
Justin and his bartending staff can cold smoke a cocktail with just about anything that can be burned, including hickory and cherry wood, tea or spices.
“You’re not going to talk the guy who’s been drinking Manhattans for 30 years to try something new,” Justin said. “But (with cold smoking), I bet I can take something familiar and make it seem brand new to the customer.”
But the fun doesn’t end at the front of the house, and in the kitchen chefs James Zoeller and Simon Gilna are experimenting with molecular gastronomy, or the practical implementation of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking.
For example, Justin said Zoeller and Gilna started creating edible spheres infused with flavors such as citrus and soy sauce.
“They’re both like mad scientists in the kitchen and we definitely encourage experimentation with a lot of different ingredients,” Teryn said.
But the Guadagnolis also are careful not to allow themselves to be completely defined by experimentation, saying the ultimate goal is to serve food that is both visually appealing and tasty.
All of the food is organic and much of it is raised in Colorado. The Guadagnolis are particularly proud of their pork, which is sourced from organically raised, vegetarian-fed heritage breed hogs raised by Tender Belly in Denver.
“Quality and freshness are really important to us,” Teryn said. “We want our plates to look beautiful, so you have to have quality ingredients.”