By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4)– When Denver chef Frank Bonanno set out to open a different kind of restaurant, it was a tour of an 18,000 square foot space that inspired him.

“Walter Isenberg, from Sage Hospitality, I’ve known him for 30 years. He suggested we come to look and when I came to look at it, this was all slated to be eight individual restaurants. When Jacqueline and I went home with the floor plan, this is the space for us to do a market; we would take all of it,” said Bonanno.

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Chef Frank Bonanno (credit: CBS)

They took the entire space and promised to open it just 1½ years later. With 16 dine-in and take-away restaurants, along with bars and retail, it was a huge undertaking.

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(credit: CBS)

Fortunately, Bonanno says Sage trusted his vision.

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(credit: CBS)

“We just had our ideas and those guys saw our vision which is why this project came together,” said Bonanno. “For them to take a risk; I mean we’re their anchor tenant of this whole dairy block concept so for them to say hi crazy husband and wife…”

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(credit: CBS)

The Milk Market officially opened Friday in full swing.

“I was here Thursday until 11:30 spinning gelatos, a little ambitious because we have 24 in the case and we have to keep up with that.”

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(credit: CBS)

Bonanno is excited to focus on foods he has never done before like pastries and gelato. His cookie monster gelato was inspired by children as much of his work is. His other inspiration is his wife.

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(credit: CBS)

“There’s always the saying that no guy is as good as his wife right? I mean you always have a better half and we push each other.” He continued, “That’s how we work together and that’s how every restaurant we’ve ever opened has ever been.”

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(credit: CBS)

Friday’s opening drew a large, enthusiastic crowd.

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CBS4’s Jamie Leary interviews Bonanno (credit: CBS)

“The selection here is a little bit more vast than anywhere we’ve ever been,” said Kelsey Searcy as she sipped wine with her husband. “My glass of wine was $5 and that’s not a happy hour price, that’s an all-day price!”

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(credit: CBS)

While it was just day one, things were running smooth. Bonanno says he is confident it will continue that way.

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(credit: CBS)

“Truly it’s about creating happy people. Not the guests necessarily but the people that work with us. If they’re happy, the guests are happy. If the cooks are happy the food is good. That’s the mantra that we live by,” said Bonanno.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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