Chophouse owners bank on downtown
Urgency defined: Even before Tommy
Cortopassi and Tim Wright signed a lease
on the location for their new restaurant,
they’d taken care of most of the paperwork.
They had a business license in hand.
They’d filed the paperwork on their limited-
liability partnership. They’d filed on
their trade name. They’d decided on key
They moved even faster once they had
a signed lease on the building at 425 S.
Virginia that formerly was home to Adeles
at the Plaza. In just a little over two
weeks, Cortopassi and Wright painted,
installed new carpet, remodeled booths
and trained a staff of more than 30 to be
ready for the opening last week of the
Chophouse on Virginia Street.
Now, however, comes the hard part:
Nurturing the magic that makes a restaurant
The restaurant’s two owners don’t
doubt they have the experience to make it
work. Between the two of them, they’ve
opened some 40 restaurants in the region
on behalf of individual owners and investment
groups but not for themselves.
“This is a chance to do our own thing,”
Cortopassi said last week, taking a break
after the restaurant’s first noontime rush.
The restaurant Wright and Cortopassi
created is styled after old-fashioned steakhouses
traditionally found in big-city
While the menu includes fish, pasta,
lamb and pork, steak clearly is the centerpiece.
To get precisely the steak they want, the
owners of The Chophouse contracted with
Harris Ranch, a big cattle producer in
California’s Central Valley, to feed a custom-
designed recipe of corn and alfalfa to
animals destined for The Chophouse.
The deal with Harris Ranch also provides
The Chophouse some room on
menu pricing, said Wright.
“Reno is very conservative about price,”
he said. A full dinner with a 10-ounce sirloin
is $17.95 at The Chophouse; an
eight-ounce filet mignon is $25.95.
While Cortopassi and Wright are confident
in their abilities to develop and
manage a restaurant, much of the success
of their venture may depend on the future
of downtown Reno. The Chophouse location
a few steps south of Liberty Street
and facing city hall is smack in the
middle of the Reno’s downtown redevelopment
“We’re banking on the redevelopment
of downtown Reno,” said Cortopassi. “We
truly believe that it will take place.”
The downtown area, the partners said,
continues to be the home of financial, legal
and government offices that they expect to
generate lunch trade. The nearby casino
district will help boost dinner traffic, they
“Downtown is still the heart of the
city,” said Wright.
The two partners have sunk their life
savings into the project, and the only additional
financing is a long-term, low-interest
loan through the city’s redevelopment
“We’re now the gatekeepers to downtown,”
The partners, who have known each
other since they both worked at the
Peppermill years ago, came back together
when they were hired as managers at
Michael Bros. Steakhouse in Reno in late
“I don’t think you could find a better
partnership,” said Cortopassi.Wright’s
strengths, the partners said, are in the
financial and business operation of a
restaurant, while Cortopassi’s focus is on
the food and service side of the operation.
“We questioned each other on everything
we did,” Cortopassi said. “But with
our experience, none of this has been a
Chophouse owners bank on downtown
John Seelmeyer, managing editor
Tommy Cortopassi, left, chef Sam “Haas” McKemy and Tim Wright
launched The Chophouse on Virginia Street last week.
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