Executive Chef Darren Pusateri is a veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry, and started work at age 13 as a dishwasher in his family’s south Florida restaurant. Always knowing that he wanted to become a chef, Pusateri enrolled at the Florida Culinary Institute after high school while also working as a Commis Chef at the prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel in Palm Beach. After graduating culinary school, he earned another degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Lynn University in Boca Raton.
Chef Pusateri then moved to New York City to work with acclaimed chef and culinary author Daniel Boulud. There he met his wife Kristina, and after three years of rigorous training, he decided to broaden his culinary horizons and moved to Colorado to work at Frasca in Boulder. Working with owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Chef Pusateri began to appreciate working with local, fresh ingredients and partnering with local farms.
After two years of working in Boulder, Chef Pusateri was offered a position to help open the Ritz Carlton Hotel’s downtown Denver location. This corporate environment, with its emphasis on strict labor and food costs, has proved to be an invaluable career experience. It was here, too, that he met Gallo Di Nero owner Josh Barhaug and General Manager Noel Martin.
Still wanting to expand his culinary skills, Chef Pusateri went on to work with other notable Denver establishments, including Squeaky Bean, Ototo Food and Wine Bar, Izakaya Den and Sushi Den where he helped develop menus, control food and labor costs, train employees, and even establish a proprietary farm for restaurant ingredients. He also sojourned in Europe, and honed his culinary skills working stages all across the continent.
Upon returning to Denver, Chef Pusateri realized his true passion for rustic Italian cooking. After Fired Up’s devastating fire, he approached owners Josh and Jessica Barhaug with the idea for reopening as Gallo Di Nero, a casual, yet elegant Italian eatery.
Josh served in the U.S. Army from 2001 to 2004, and was stationed in South Korea and Fort Lewis, Washington before completing a tour of duty in Iraq and moving back to his hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming. After meeting Jessica in 2005 while she was attending the Colorado School of Mines, Josh moved to Denver, and with the help of his G.I. Bill funds, began to pursue his passion for cooking.
After graduating from Metropolitan State University with a degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Management, and from the Art Institute of Colorado with another degree in Culinary Arts, Josh and Jessica began exploring the idea of opening their own restaurant. During this time, Josh helped open Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, and Elway’s at the Ritz Carlton in Denver, where he met Gallo Di Nero’s Executive Chef Darren Pusateri. Jessica began studying wine and taking sommelier courses, culminating in her certification as a Sommelier Level Two.
After marrying in 2010, Josh and Jessica visited Italy, staying at agriturismos (Italian farm-stays), and were moved by the region’s “slow food” movement that emphasizes locally grown foods and using plants, seeds and meats to their fullest potential. They also fell in love with Italy’s wood-fired ovens, and the care that goes into making each dish.
When they returned to Denver, they opened Fired Up, a wood-fired pizza and small plates restaurant where everything – from the pizza dough to the homemade mozzarella and sausage – was made in-house. But at the one-year mark, just as it was gaining notoriety, Fired Up suffered a devastating fire and closed for several months.
During this time, Josh reconnected with his old friend and colleague, Chef Pusateri, who gave them the inspiration to reopen the restaurant in the same location and take the menu to the next level. With Pusateri’s help, Josh and Jessica expanded their vision to create a unique dining experience at Gallo Di Nero.