After 95 years in business, it's not surprising that the Blue Parrot would opt for a bit of a facelift. But when the Colacci family that owns the blue-hued, red-sauce joint in Louisville decided to update the facade, they chose to celebrate not just the history of the iconic restaurant but of the entire town -- with a mural depicting scenes from the nineteenth century to today. "The Blue Parrot is the oldest Italian restaurant in Colorado and carries with it a rich history of our community," says Paul Weissmann, the former legislator who's worked there for decades.
The mural, designed by Zaremba Graphics and Web Solutions, has been created on aluminum panels that will be installed this weekend, if the weather holds up. The Louisville Downtown Business Association matched the Blue Parrot dollar for dollar on the cost of the project; the restaurant raised some of the funds by offering two spaghetti dinners (with meatball or sausage) for every $25 donated.
The improvements won't end with the mural. The neon sign is being refurbished, and the owners are hoping the people doing the repairs can determine when the sign was created; it dates back to at least the '50s, Weissmann says, when the Colacci name was added after one family member opened a competing restaurant. The Blue Parrot is installing outdoor seating, too, and even the menu will get an upgrade.
And Weissman himself is making some changes. He'll still be working at the Blue Parrot -- he'd like to become an owner, he says -- but he's also been talked into running for county treasurer. Although serving a perfect margarita has its benefits, he misses public service. "The fun is a mix of both," he says. "The legislature was a good time, except for when it became very, very frustrating. You could do whatever you did all week -- sometimes worthwhile, sometimes worthless -- and then escape."
Right behind the bar, where he could continue to dispense free advice. Like Weissmann, the Blue Parrot just keeps serving. In fact, except for a brief shut-down after a fire in the 1980s -- "until they quickly learned how to serve out of a parking lot," Weissmann says -- the Colacci family has kept the Blue Parrot in continuous operation since 1919.
That might make it not just the oldest Italian restaurant, not just the oldest family-owned restaurant, but the oldest continually operating restaurant in the entire state.
There are restaurants in older buildings -- the Buckhorn in Denver and the Hotel Jerome in Aspen both date to 1893 -- and bars that have been pouring longer (the spot now occupied by My Brother's Bar has been a saloon since the 1880s), but can any restaurant beat the Blue Parrot's record for longevity?
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