I dropped by Gaetano's last night for a Tasty Treat (a sausage and green chili strips baked in a pizza crust) and a taste of history. Wynkoop Holdings bought this classic joint back in 2005, taking over a restaurant that started as Ralph and Mamie Smaldone's Tejon Street Cafe back in 1934, then moved to 3760 Tejon Street and became Gaetano's.
The Smaldones soon became known for more than their marinara sauce, of course; the Gaetano's menu notes that the family's "history is rife with tales of gambling, bookmaking and even murder." So rife, in fact, that former Denver Post writer Dick Kreck is finishing up a book on the Smaldones.
When she recently reviewed Gaetano's in the Rocky Mountain News, Lori Midson recounted some of this history -- and was rebuked by a letter writer who wondered why it was relevant to bring up the Smaldones's shady past in a current critique of a restaurant.
Um, maybe because the restaurant itself plays off that past? Gaetano's makes "Italian to die for," the menu promises. "From one family to another."
And while Gaetano's food is just fine on its own, the history just gives it added flavor. -- 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.