Food & Drink

Analysis: Iconic Swiss Chalet sold

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Roberto and Elizabeth Calcagno

Photo by Matthew Schniper

Nineteen-sixty-two. That’s the year The Swiss Chalet opened in Woodland Park. The Levy family has operated it (and The Peppertree in Colorado Springs), and was well-known to the community. Neil Levy, who passed away in 2020, was a former mayor of the town.

But now, as of Jan. 1, 2023, the Levy family will say goodbye to their beloved business and hand its legacy over to Roberto and Elizabeth Calcagno, owners of newly opened Mountainara Cucina Italiana, who also formerly operated Basil and Barley Pizzeria Napoletana.

“Only a few months back we started Mountainara with few dollars in our pockets,” the Calcagnos said in a press release. “Now we have the chance to revitalize a Woodland Park icon.”

What that will look like, Roberto said, is a mix of fine European cuisine representing most all of the countries of Western Europe but also Eastern areas too. Basically, a dish from each place, to include Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Poland and beyond — even England.

So as not to compete with himself at Mountainara, Italian food likely won’t make the menu.

Atmosphere- and ambiance-wise, Roberto said, the space will be updated and modernized over the course of a few weeks of closure to make interior renovations. He’s going for a Scandinavian-style minimalist approach, and ditching the white tablecloths for bare wood, he said.

He’s hopeful they’ll open by mid- or late January, tentatively.

The menu’s not yet set, and remains a work in progress, with the Chalet’s current executive chef Jerrod Doss to stay in place for day-to-day operations.

A little more backstory on Roberto: He hails from the northern coastal city of Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of pesto. He said he doesn’t cook fully traditional Italian, opting to lighten up most dishes to his own flavor/texture preference: “I don’t make thick and heavy, I make light and tasty.”

Roberto went from Italy to living in England before he tired of the rain, he said, and he recalled fond memories of visits to the United States and Colorado, specifically. He met Elizabeth here (she was an Army brat) and years later they opened Basil and Barley, in 2018. He opted to sell it in August 2021, after weathering most of the pandemic, because he was tired of bigger city life (being located in Briargate).

Roberto became fond of Woodland Park for its small size and relative quiet. It’s a place he wants to raise his four children, and he loves being recognized as “the Italian guy” around town when out shopping and socializing. He’s found a happy sense of community. And the cool part about buying The Swiss Chalet, he notes, is the property includes housing where the family can live, along with Roberto’s parents.

Here’s more of the press release about the purchase:

“[The Swiss Chalet] will run alongside Mountainara to offer to our beautiful town the best Italian and European food that its people deserve with two of the favorite restaurants in town, managed under one family.

“That is an incredible project for us, it means the world to my family and me to continue Neil, Paula and Max’s dream, to pass it along generations and to take care of this icon with the same love of our predecessors.

“My family and I are very grateful to everyone involved in this transaction that have made our dream possible. The Levy’s family has been incredibly accommodating during the whole process.

“Like the great Enzo Ferrari once said: ‘Dreams make man live. Destiny is largely in our hands, as long as we clearly know what we want and are determined to get it.’ …

“During the negotiations we outran big corporates that wanted the ‘Chalet.’ I tend to believe mostly because in our offer was included something different, a dream. Maybe you didn’t know, but dreams are often contagious…”

Pollo Peri Peri, Mountainara

Pollo Peri Peri, according to Mountainara's menu, is a spicy chicken dish introduced to Angola and Mozambique by Portuguese settlers, who brought "piri piri" chile peppers with them. This is an example of a dish (served on Mountainara's weekly specials list) that might make the menu at the newly revamped Swiss Chalet.

The new Swiss Chalet logo

The Swiss Chalet

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