Work is progressing on the former Longo's Subway Tavern, a choice piece of corner real estate on the edge of LoHi/Sunnyside that Larimer Associates purchased in 2012 and is turning into a second location for Troy Guard's TAG Burger Bar. The Longo family, which ran the Subway for more than fifty years, had always claimed that they were the first to serve pizza in Denver -- and as the construction crew removed additions to the century-old building, another specialty has been revealed: "the original connolle." See also: The ten best burgers in Denver
"The first pizza made in Colorado came out of my oven," Barb Longo, who married Ray Longo's son and worked at the Subway for 38 years, told us back in 2012. "Ray Longo also designed the calzone, but we call it a cannoli."
And according to fans of Italian food, only in Denver is dough stuffed with meat referred to as a cannoli (much less a connolle). That's traditionally considered a calzone. "A cannoli is a crisp shell that's stuffed with a ricotta cheese cream filling, and it usually has nuts -- almost always pistachios -- sprinkled on either end," says restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. "Except in Denver, where it's pizza dough with a big piece of sausage inside of it smothered with sauce."
Joe Vostrejs, COO of Larimer Associates, has Italian roots that stretch back generations (his father's parents were both born in Louisville) and grew up in Park Hill eating cannolis -- with meat in them. "I'd visit friends," he recalls, "and they'd ask if I wanted a cannoli, and I'd get this thing filled with cream and chocolate..."
For the Subway Tavern, an old house was connected to the commercial building on 38th Avenue, and the sign in the front wasn't the only surprise revealed during construction. The old house was "falling down, there was no way to save it," Vostrejs says. So that was removed, and replaced with an extension with interior space and also a patio that will be at the back of the restaurant. The commercial building in front is being restored, and when the paneling came down, the sign was revealed.
Vostrejs knew about the Subway pizza connection, but not "the original connolle." And "the Mexican food came as a complete surprise to me," he says. They've been looking at ways to preserve the sign, but that, too, maybe impossible to save.
But Denver's unusual definition of cannoli will live on, as will memories of the original Subway.
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