Exclusive first look: The new Gaetano's reopens on Saturday
And Ruskaup insists that she and the crew wanted to be "respectful of the past," so they identified what she calls the "three untouchables": the bar, the family history and the painted lady, all of which endure.
This isn't to say that nothing has changed: Booths, the hue of chartreuse, have been added; the former private room now flows into one; the once-weathered (and rotting) hardwoods have been replaced with new hickory that still shines a little too much; and chef Chris Cina's menu has retired the Tasty Treats.
Nonetheless, you'll still find meatballs, lasagna, pasta with red sauce, Italian sausage from Clyde's, pasta Carbonara and alfredo and veal Parmigiana, and while it's a pared down menu from the past, Cina deftly succeeded in preserving it roots, while simultaneously giving those wanting pork chops or swordfish, or wild mushroom ravioli (which is splendid, by the way) bobbing in a Parmesan broth fragranced with porcini dust, those options, too. It's a judicious balance between now and then, and for all you -- me included -- worried that he'd turn the menu into a contemporary Italian shit-show, take heart: He didn't.
And the cocktail syllabus has retained its classic charm, too, although even that has been given a shake and a stir. Now, there's a "little black book" independent of the standard list that focuses on what head bartender Kyle West, otherwise known as the "Underground Gin Smuggler," calls "bartender skills." It's a "hush-hush collection," he says, of eight cocktails (and recipes) that's reminiscent of the Prohibition era. "You have to ask for it," he warns, "but we hope that it will organically take hold over time."
The cocktails will change, he says, but you'll always be able to order the Old-Fashioned, which, in a twist, you make yourself. The components, including a glass with block ice and a tube with Jim Beam, are brought to the table on a tray, and your server will offer the recommended measurements, but the final outcome is really up to you. "The correct recipe is whatever the guest wants it to be," stresses West, whose bar repertoire also includes a barrel aging program that's a collaboration of five Colorado producers, as well as a Negroni cocktail that's available on tap.
Gaetano's will reopen this Saturday, following a series of friends and family dinners, and my prediction is that most of you will like what's inside, including the fact that nearly every single seat faces the door, just in case, you know, there's a shootout, in which case, Gaetano's has your back.
Here's an exclusive first look of what you'll see.