Demolition begins on the iconic Gaetano's
I grew up on the far west side of town, a culinary black hole -- at least in the '70s and '80s -- that forced me and my family to drive what I believed were impossibly long distances to dinner. We went out to eat -- a lot -- and from as far back as I can remember, we graced Gaetano's at least once a week. We loved the classic margherita pizza (even when the tomatoes were wan) and the brothel-red color scheme, my mom was enamored by the whole mystique of the Mafia, and my stepfather, who has the bushiest eyebrows on the planet, a pronounced nose and a New York accent, seemed to think that he was Mafia; he certainly tried to play the stereotypical part, never leaving the house without a "Godfather" hat, a long black trench coat and a cigar.
Chris Cina Gaetano's, the northwest Denver Italian restaurant opened by the Smaldones in 1947, is getting a major facelift.
Gaetano's has a long history, beginning in 1947, when Eugene, Clyde and Clarence Smaldone opened the Italian restaurant -- the name is Italian for Clyde - and began slinging pizzas and pastas slicked with red sauce, but the brothers were conducting "family business," as well, and after decades of gambling, bootlegging booze, loan sharking, tax evasion and other gangster crimes, they were convicted.
But Gaetano's prevailed, continuing its tradition of serving red sauce American-Italian food, and little changed, except for the clientele. In 2005, it was purchased by Wynkoop Holdings, the same company (which has since merged with Breckenridge Brewery) that owns Wynkoop Brewing, Ghost Plate & Tap, Wazee Supper Club, Cherry Cricket, the former Pearl Street Grill, and more.
And up until a few months ago, Gaetano's had ambled along, staying true to its roots, but when chef Chris Cina was hired by BW Holdings (Wynkoop/Breckenridge) several months ago to spearhead the kitchen at Ghost Plate & Tap (he's now overseeing the kitchen at the Wynkoop Brewery), he also turned his focus to modernizing the menu at Gaetano's, a move that would coincide with another change at Gaetano's: a major interior overhaul.
The makeover was meant to start next week, but a pipe burst at the restaurant last Friday night, and rather than fixing the pipe, reopening for a few days only to close a few days later, the clan figured that the plumbing issue was as good a reason as any to start the demolition process sooner rather than later. "We're getting ready to start construction. We have the plans and we've got everything laid out, but we're waiting on permits," says Cina, who estimates that Gaetano's will be closed for a minimum of six weeks.