Phil's Place, a watering hole at 3463 Larimer Street, was the unlikely setting Sunday for a book-signing event by Dick Kreck, the former Denver Post scribe who's the author of Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family. After all, for close to sixty years the Smaldones ran Gaetano's, an Italian restaurant that was the most respectable of their business ventures.
But then, Kreck eats at Phil's Place pretty often -- the kitchen is run by Junie Garcia, who's connected to a long line of great Mexican restaurants and left the late, lamented Bamboo Hut to come help her son, Phil, at his own place. And sp Junie's husband, Gary, decided to add a book-signing to Sunday's Customer Appreciation Day, which also included a "smokeout" for the regulars (barbecued beef, guac, potato salad, mac and cheese, and spiced mangos) and Mimosa specials for Father's Day.
It was quite a collision of cultures, since those appreciative customers are not exactly the type of crowd you find twenty blocks down the street in Larimer Square. In fact, one day when Kreck was eating at Phil's and talking about his book, it turned out that the very large man on the next stool had been in jail with one of the Smaldones. But the Phil's regulars got along well with the historians who ventured out for the signing, and Kreck moved a number of books -- even if they were beer- and barbecue-stained by the time they left the building.
By the way, the historians in the crowd noted that decades ago, this building was the home of Kelly's Drugstore, then later become Dave's Lounge in the '70s before it finally turned into Phil's Place a few years ago. And for the record, there will be a private party in honor of Kreck and his book later this week at Gaetano's, which is now owned by the Wynkoop Family of Restaurants.
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Kreck will also have a public signing, complete with slide show and Q&A with Clyde Smaldone's sons, Gene and Chuck, at the LoDo Tattered Cover on June 30.