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
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.