Calcagno Family Strives to Retain Same Theme With New European Additions
Local residents and area fine diners waited in much expectation when the news spread that the famous Swiss Chalet of Woodland Park was purchased by new owners, with rumors circulating about some key changes and a few culinary enhancements.
Although many were sad that the Levy family (who owned the Swiss Chalet for years) was leaving the area, they were glad to see another family take over the business and continue the famous eatery’s legacy.
Earlier this year, the restaurant closed for a little while to complete some renovations. Once they reopened, the fine dining hub quickly became the talk of the town.
The restaurant now has a new, more modern look with comfy chairs covered in white fur. However, even with the changes, the dining room still has the comfy log cabin-style appeal with a fireplace to make visitors feel extra cozy while enjoying their meal.
The new owners, Elizabeth and Roberto Calcagno, kept their promises to keep the theme of the restaurant and still offer many of the same legendary, trophy-level entrees, customers have enjoyed at the Swiss Chalet for decades. They did, though, make a few changes on the menu and added some more European-style dishes.
The fine dining establishment now sports amazing entrees and appetizers from just about every European country. The menu still contains French dishes like the ribeye and filet mignon, and now they serve a salmon in a way that originates from Norway.
The menu now has entrees like a goulash from Hungary that comes with wild boar, Yukon gold potatoes, peppercorn and paprika. People can also choose to enjoy a paella from Spain that includes saffron rice, chicken, rabbit, and fire roasted peppers.
For starters, customers can have items like a Swiss fondue, French onion soup, or a Greek kalamata salad. After their meal, visitors then have the choice enjoy delicious desserts like a chocolate fondue for two with chocolate imported from Belgium.
The eatery also offers specials that include a delicious fish of the day dish. One day when they were open they offered a surf and turf special that consisted of a Wagyu beef steak and salmon raviolis.
A Well-Versed Culinary Family
The new owners aren’t new to the area, or rookies in the restaurant industry. The Calcagno family also owns Mountainara Cucina Italiana in Woodland Park and they have owned restaurants in Italy, England, and Colorado Springs.
When the Swiss Chalet came up for sale late last year, the Calcagno family jumped on the chance to own another eatery in town, and they were excited to continue on the legacy of the Levy family. The family lives in a house near the restaurant, and Roberto’s parents live in an apartment above the eatery.
The owners did hire some new staff, but they also kept many long-time employees that were employed by the Levy family, including their head chef. Chef Theron Gillen grew up in Woodland Park, and he has worked at several places across the country including restaurants in Montana and Alaska.
Gillen went to culinary school in Colorado Springs, and he has worked for various eateries including smaller mom and pop style restaurants and fine dining establishments. During the pandemic, the chef moved back to Colorado to be closer to family, and he worked at a few different places in the area before finding his home at the Swiss Chalet.
Gillen worked for the Levy family for six months, and then he was key culinary leader of the Swiss Chalet, when the Calcagnos took over the restaurant by helping design the new menu. “We wanted to kind of expand the menu by growing out from doing just German and Swiss and doing all European foods like some very Spanish and Portuguese-style influences,” Gillen said. “We really wanted to revive the finer side of food that they had here before. We are trying to pull some unique ingredients; we do a lot of special order ingredients like wild boar and our fennel pollen and saffron. We use a lot of imported ingredients that aren’t easy to get, but they add a lot to the flavors.”
He said that when the Calcagnos took over the eatery they wanted to give it a slightly more modern look. “He really wanted to make it a little more modern, but still keep that homey, woodsy cabin vibe,” the head chef explained. “We got rid of the old table cloths and got wood tables. He really wanted to stay true to the old roots and keep the Swiss cabin style. The white plush fur seats are a little unconventional, but they are very much high alpine style décor. The chandelier in the restaurant is an heirloom from Roberto’s family and it is very, very old.”
Gillen said that he plans to change the menu regularly by adding seasonal items and offer special dishes for holidays.