No question, I ate awesome sandwiches during my trips toCarbone's Italian Sausage Deli
for this week'sreview
. But the flavor of those sausage, meatball and salami subs was also enhanced by the place making them, a relic of the kind of Italian market that once stood on just about every block in northwest Denver.
I love cruising that neighborhood with my boyfriend's dad, who's lived in Denver for decades and remembers the names and stories of now long-gone cafes, bars and restaurants. One recent trip down memory lane ended at an Italian institution that's still going strong: Patsy's, which the Aiello family opened back in 1921 and, after some time with another owner, is now back in the hands of a cousin.
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Stepping into this eatery is like stepping into the past: The saloon side, with its giant wooden bar, and the dining room are bathed in shadows -- which cover some, but not all, of the spots worn shiny on the walls and tables and wooden booths, a side effect of years of use. Sometime during the last few decades, Patsy's expanded, adding a generic addition reminiscent of a church's multi-purpose room; it's better to be seated in the original space.
Patsy's recently added to-go pizza, but then you'd miss the experience of eating in the dining room and being served by the incredibly efficient and caring staff. You'd also miss a classic plate of spaghetti and meatballs: a tangle of fat, chewy homemade noodles and fat, juicy meatballs, infused with parmesan, smothered in a thick, savory marinara that reeks of garlic and basil. If you dare, order it spicy, with red-pepper flakes adding a tingling lift to the rib-sticking heartiness of the pasta.
This dish, just like the restaurant that serves it, is a delightful window into a changing neighborhood's past.