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Arrivederci, Valente's

Today is the last day for Valente’s Italian Restaurant. The northwest Denver mainstay got its start in 1964, when Ray Valente Sr. and Pat Aiello opened Jenny’s Pizzeria, named after Aeillo’s wife. (Aiello already had a restaurant named for him: Patsy’s, which is still going strong, although under different ownership, on Navajo Street.) When Pat retired in 1971 and Ray became the sole owner, he changed the name to Valente's Italian Restaurant– but the joint continued to enjoy a reputation for great, red-sauce Italian food.

And that reputation has lasted through numerous expansions (both in space and family) right up through Valente's current incarnation at 6995 West 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. But after today's special, $11.95 lunch buffet shuts down at 3 p.m.– a combination of Columbus Day celebration and retirement party for Ray – Valente’s will close its doors for good. “That’ll be it,” says Mark Valente, Ray’s son. “On Christmas Eve, Dad’ll be 84. We looked at a million options.”

And in the end, the option of closing Valente’s and ultimately selling the property – “a nice piece of real estate,” Mark says -- made the most sense, since both Mark and his brother, Ray Jr., have their own careers. But the family shared their decision the honorable way: They announced the closing date two weeks in advance, asked the staff to stay, and invited regulars to drop in for a last taste. “It worked out great,” Mark says. “People have come by, and signed a book with their wishes to Dad.”

And, Mark adds, even after Valente’s is officially closed at the end of the day, he fully expects his father to keep coming in each day and putting on the coffee pot for the regulars who just can’t say goodbye.

Arrivederci, Valente’s. -- Patricia Calhoun

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