Cafe Society

Last day at Valente's Italian Restaurant

Valente’s Italian Restaurant, which had been up and running for 44 years, closed today following a combination Columbus Day/retirement party for owner Ray Valente. And that festive, long goodbye wasn't the only thing that distinguished the Valente's closing from another recent high-profile closing: that of Jim Sullivan's Nine75 (the restaurant reopened last Friday under new owners).

Ray Valente and his boys, Mark and Ray Jr., actually announced the impending closure to their staff on Saturday, September 27, asking their people to stay around until the final service. And if this sounds familiar, that’s because on September 29, the day Jim Sullivan closed Ocean and Nine75, that's precisely what Sullivan told me could not possibly work in the restaurant industry -- using it to defend his practice of closing restaurants and firing staff with no warning whatsoever, insisting that if he told his staff in advance that his restaurants were closing, the whole bunch would immediately walk out.

And while that may be the case for an owner whose staff doesn’t like or doesn’t trust him, it worked just fine for Valente's. Almost all of the staff stuck it out gladly, proudly, until Valente's closed its doors. And even though one found another gig before this last day rolled around and another had to cut back to part-time, Mark told me the rest were there right until the end. He recalled, “One of our guys, a young guy, said, ‘No. I’m staying with you ‘til the end. This was my first job and I’m staying.’”

That's a great way to go out. -- Jason Sheehan

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
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