Chophouse owners bank on downtown |

Chophouse owners bank on downtown

John Seelmeyer

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

staff members.

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

downtown areas.

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,”

said Wright.

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.