Change and growth continue to define the neighborhood that new arrivals know as LoHi but that longtime Denver residents simply call the Northside. Most notable — for food and history buffs, at least — has been the steady loss of classic red-sauce joints that were the legacy of the Italian immigrants who settled in this part of the city more than 100 years ago. The latest loss is one of the longest-standing eateries; earlier today, Patsy's served its last plate of pasta after 95 years in business. Owners Ron Cito and Kim DeLancey are retiring from and selling their venerable and beloved restaurant.
"If I still had my health, I would still be here," explains Cito, who, along with DeLancey, said goodbye to a few regulars who came for lunch and stayed for one last drink at the bar.
The two bought Patsy's ten years ago, returning the restaurant to the original Aiello family that had opened it in 1921. Cito's great aunt was Maggie Tolve, who married founder Michael Aiello and put her mark on the place with recipes that withstood the test of time. The restaurant was originally called Aiello's Italian Kitchen, but the name was changed to Patsy's in the 1940s by then-owner George "Chubby" Aiello. He ran the place until 1997, and Patsy's was out of the family for about nine years until Cito and DeLancey bought it.
"We never thought for a second we'd have to give up Patsy's," DeLancey says. She and Cito are both Denver natives who grew up near the restaurant and still live within earshot of the sound of trains rumbling through downtown. Although they're saddened by the closure, they're looking forward to spending time on their patio with their children (seven, between the two of them) and grandchildren, listening to the trains and church bells, two reminders of the neighborhood's past. They're also actively working on having the neighborhood officially designated as Denver's "Little Italy," a difficult task so far, according to DeLancey.
To all of Patsy's longtime customers, Cito and Delancey say, "Thank you all for the memories" — memories that include the couple who met at the restaurant on a blind date and returned every year on their wedding anniversary, and all the friends the owners have made over the years.
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Other Italian restaurants that have closed in recent years include Pagliacci's, Carbone's and Longo's Subway Tavern, while Gaetano's, Lechuga's and Carl's Pizza still remain. Only Carl's still has its original owner, however.
And what will become of Patsy's? "I know, but nobody else does," Cito says with a smile. The sale is imminent but still pending, so he and DeLancey decline to go into specifics. "We're just happy that the building is going to remain standing," DeLancey adds.
What they will share is that the replacement restaurant will not be Italian, but that the new owner has a great deal of respect for historic Denver buildings. "We're very excited for the venue coming in," DeLancey continues. "It will be a great fit for the neighborhood."
The two say they're looking forward to eating at more restaurants in their neighborhood — including the one taking over the Patsy's space — now that they won't have the day-to-day worries of running their own. While future visits to the spot won't include a heaping plate of handmade spaghetti and red sauce, we hope to see Ron and Kim there along with their former customers, enjoying what comes next.