Six Really Old, Old-School Red-Sauce Italian Joints in Metro Denver
Old-school Italian still survives in Denver.
You used to be able to find old-school red-sauce joints all over metro Denver. But their ranks have been dwindling, as the owners of these Italian restaurants decided to retire or sell out to developers — or both. The most recent loss? Patsy's, which closed last year after serving up homemade pasta for more than ninety years. And now comes news that an even older institution, Louisville's 98-year-old Blue Parrot, will be closing by the end of January; the last member of the Colacci family that founded the place wants to retire. But you still have two more weeks to eat at that icon, and there are other Italian joints that have survived more than five decades in metro Denver. Here are six restaurants (including Blue Parrot) that are still serving in the original spots where they first stirred up that red sauce more than fifty years ago.
The Blue Parrot stands at the corner of Pine and Main streets in Louisville
The Blue Parrot
The Blue Parrot Restaurant
640 Main Street, Louisville
Opened in 1919, the Blue Parrot is the oldest continually operating family-run restaurant in Colorado. Mary Colacci used to invite the residents of Louisville to join the Colacci family for big Italian dinners on Sunday afternoons; she and her husband, Mike, finally opened their own restaurant in 1919. Their two sons worked there with their families; today the third through fifth generations of the Colacci family run the restaurant, which is a Louisville landmark.
Frank the Pizza King has been serving its Englewood neighborhood for more than fifty years.
Courtesy of Frank the Pizza King
Frank the Pizza King
4701 South Broadway, Englewood
Frank the Pizza King was founded on South Broadway in 1961 by Frank Krascek; today's it's run by Walter (Frank's son) and Maria Krascek. Since Frank is the pizza king, pizza dominates the menu, with a medium-thick crust and a generous slathering of red sauce. But homemade sausage sandwiches, Italian subs and other diner-style dishes are also available.
Garlic lovers flock to the Saucy Noodle.
The Saucy Noodle
727 South University Boulevard
Opened in 1964, the Saucy Noodle celebrated fifty years in business under the same family ownership two years ago; Erin Markham took over operations in the 1990s from her grandfather, Sam Badis. Restaurant critic Gretchen Kurtz, in her review of the garlic-loving joint, noted that the "attitude, like the food itself, was nothing if not friendly, a personification of the family that has run the Saucy Noodle for all these years." Don't expect anything fancy — just the same meatballs, pastas, pizzas and family atmosphere that have been keeping Bonnie Brae neighbors coming back for decades.
Gaetano's has been through several ownership changes and remodels, but it still captures a piece of Denver's history.
3760 Tejon Street
Gaetano's underworld history, when the place was run by the Smaldone crime family back in the ’40s, is familiar to Denver natives, as is the overhaul by the Breckenridge-Wynkoop group, which purchased the place in 2006. There's still plenty of history left in the joint (although it's not so much a joint anymore), and it's back in independent hands, having been purchased by Ron Robinson in 2013. Today Gaetano's remains a great neighborhood spot with a swank Frank Sinatra vibe, and the sauce is a marked improvement from the days of the Smaldones.
The bar at Gennaro's, opposite the cozy dining room.
2598 South Broadway
Gennaro's has been a low-key, red-sauce, neighborhood Italian joint for more than fifty years, with just two owners in that time. Separated from its companion bar by a bank of windows (you can also order off the menu in the bar), the dining room has just a few tables with red-checked cloths, as well as a view of the kitchen cooking up pizza and pasta. Hand-tossed pizzas and calzones big enough for two highlight a menu long on American-Italian classics like lasagna, baked ziti, and sausage and peppers.
Dino's is a West Colfax veteran.
Dino's Italian Food
10040 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood
Apparently 1961 was a good year for Italian restaurants; Dino's popped up that year on West Colfax Avenue and has been keeping the red sauce simmering ever since. The restaurant, founded by Dino DiPaolo and still run by his daughter, Judy Duren, gives Denver's western suburbs a taste of pizza, Italian sandwiches, baked lasagna and manicotti, as well as piles of pasta.
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