The People: Josh Barhaug

Chef Josh Barhaug channels his passion through a wood-fired oven.

By Brett McPherson

Publish Date: January 30, 2014

Josh Barhaug

Josh Barhaug is co-owner of the Lower Denver restaurant Gallo De Niro, 
where carefully prepared dishes meet a wood fired oven. Photo: Mark 
Woolcott.

 Josh Barhaug (B.A. hospitality, tourism and events ’10) always had a fire in his belly for cooking, which is why his new restaurant — where the food is kissed by the flames of a wood-fired oven — feeds his passion so well.

“When someone comes up and says, ‘Wow, that dish I just ate was amazing,’ it’s an instant gratification for me,” Barhaug says.

Barhaug, his wife, Jess, and his business partner, Darren Pusateri, are owners of Gallo Di Nero at 1135 Bannock St., the encore version of a Barhaug restaurant that was badly damaged by a fire on June 26, 2013.

Despite the setback, Barhaug held onto his dream of owning a restaurant, which took shape while he was working in the back of the house for someone else. “If I’m going to be in the kitchen,” he thought, “I might as well have my own place.”

But what kind of place?

In search of the answer, Barhaug and Jess traveled throughout most of Western Europe during the spring of 2011. At an agricultural tourism destination in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, they lodged with a farmer whose simple and slow cooking style made an impression on the pair.

“He used everything,” Barhaug explains, “taking the most care of the food and letting it shine by doing the least to it.”

Barhaug set out to do the same at Gallo Di Nero in Denver.

Nearly the entire menu comes out of his wood-fired oven — a butter-basted Redbird chicken that sits in brine overnight; a cut-to-order, bone-in, 33-ounce rib eye steak; a boar, elk, venison and antelope bolognese that takes 12 hours to cook. Everything from pizza dough to hand-cased sausage is made from scratch.

The owners buy as much local produce as possible, and the meat comes from eco-conscious farms. “People are so amazed when they eat it, and it has a lot to do with the quality of the product,” Pusateri says. “It’s all free-range and ethically farmed. That makes the difference.”

Barhaug joined with Pusateri following the fire at the earlier restaurant, which caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Together, they painstakingly created the concept for Gallo Di Nero and hired a new staff.

“I get inspired anytime I walk into the kitchen and get to be around other people who cook and enjoy food,” Barhaug says.

CHECK OUT a few of Chef Barhaug's favorite things.