The more things change, the more some restaurants stay the same

This week's review of Table 6 (609 Corona Street) represents the first time I've done a full-length piece on a restaurant I'd reviewed before. The first ran on November 11, 2004, just after Esquire critic John Mariani crowned Table 6 one of the 21 best restaurants in the country. My final review dinner was a blast — one of the meals I will carry with me for years to come, so strange and wonderful, discomfiting and rich with knowing that I had somehow stumbled into one of those perfect moments where time and place and temper and talent all collide. But the Table 6 I reviewed then had different owners, and even though some of the staff subsequently stepped up to become owners, it seemed time to take another long, hard look at the place. And I liked what I saw.

I've been on this job for six years and change, reviewed more than 325 restaurants (not counting those I've revisited for Second Helping or written about on the blog or in this column, and not counting Best of Denver). I am of two minds about this number. At first glance, this seems huge: 325 restaurants, with two or three or five or ten meals at each; 325 trips to the trough, eating everything from snails and balls to ice cream sundaes and fufu. On the other hand, it is nothing. As I noted in a Cafe Society post last week, I recently took a spin through and learned that the metro area has more than 7,000 restaurants (counting everything from the Palace Arms to Quiznos). Compared with that number, 325 is a pittance. Considering that the average life span of a restaurant is two years and that an enormous percentage of all restaurants die before they see even their first birthdays (even in a relatively friendly economic climate), the six years I've spent scribbling in Denver is already equivalent to three lifetimes in this game. And more restaurants are coming all the time. Last week, for example, we got both Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery, at 3536 West 44th Avenue, and Root Down, at 1600 West 33rd Avenue.

This industry that I've been in since I was fifteen years old, unable to leave, is constantly changing. And so are the restaurants I both love and loathe. None of them are the same places they were when I first walked through the door.

Take, for example, Patsy's Inn, at 3651 Navajo Street. In one form or another, this joint has been slinging red gravy since 1921 — first as Aiello's Italian Kitchen, opened by Michael Carmine Aiello and his son Pat in the Little Italy of Highland, and after Pat went off to fight in WWII, taken over by George "Chubby" Aiello; then as Patsy's, when Chubby decided that wartime anti-Italian sentiment might be hurting the business and so, overnight, became Irish.

Chubby Aiello ran the joint for decades, until 1997, when he finally sold Patsy's to husband-and-wife partners Cynthia Knipple and Bil Taylor. Although they dropped pizza from the menu, they kept the same crew in the kitchen and most of the other traditional Italian dishes: fantastic linguine with white clam sauce, killer homemade spaghetti and meatballs, Italian beef sandwiches with peppers, a meatball hoagie that's sometimes the best in town.

But a while back, Knipple and Taylor put Patsy's on the market — and this fall, they finally found a buyer. And not just any buyer: Patsy's is now under the command of Kim DeLancey and Ron Cito — the second cousin of Chubby himself.

"Everything old is new again," general manager W.B. Coit told me when I got him on the phone, but then he assured me that DeLancey and Cito recognized they were buying into a more than eighty-year-old tradition and would be making few changes. "They're staying the course," he said. "They have not gone for the pan-Asian fusion yet. No sashimi."

But they have gone for one old standard: Patsy's will soon serve pizza again. Even as we spoke, Coit told me that Cito was in the kitchen, "working to kit up an oven we have here. If that doesn't work, we'll probably turn it into low-income housing. The thing is just a tank."

Regardless, fresh pies are "on the way" back to Patsy's — and so am I.

Leftovers: Last week I wrote about the dearth of information coming out of the former home of French 250. Now I see that Schur Success Auction Services (which recently disposed of much of Neighborhood Flix and Ocean) is advertising a cash-in-hand auction of French 250's contents on January 5. Although French 250 barely made the one-year mark, a far more venerable French restaurant has closed its doors, too. La Chaumiere, the charming, traditional French hideaway in Lyons, shut down this fall after more than thirty years in business.

Also closed: both locations of the Santa Fe Tequila Company. The original, at 901 West Tenth Avenue, went under in November, and last week, the second store closed in Littleton — two months after it had opened. According to co-owner William Kennedy, his other restaurant — The 9th Door, at 1808 Blake Street — is doing well, and he's going to place as many ex-Santa Fe employees there as he can.