One of my favorite memories growing up is one of the many Sundays I went to lunch with my dad at Gaetano’s. My family had been friends with Chauncey and the Smaldones for decades. We walked in, always to find Louie, Vito and Chauncey playing an after-church game of cards, complete with cocktails and cigars. Bellying up to their table to hear the wild stories of the neighborhood and our Italian family ties, I reminded them I was starting high school in the fall. Louie was always the more talkative and humorous of these lifelong friends, reminding me with a stern face and strong hand on my shoulder, “You come talk to me if any boys don’t treat you right.” Vito and Chauncey nodded in agreement. After I agreed to let them know of any trouble, I made my way to the jukebox to play Frankie and Dino, my typical routine, sat back down to settle in to my manicotti and more tales from these three wise men.
It’s just one if the many stories, albeit one of the milder ones, and a few of the many characters that have graced Gaetano’s. While you can’t find Chauncey sitting coolly at the end of the bar in his usual seat anymore, you can still feel Gaetano’s history the moment you walk in the bulletproof door. The menu is simplified Italian at its best: Bresaola, perfectly baked pizza, wonderful garlicky house-made sauces, and al dente pasta with the best “gravy” in town. Gaetano’s is Wynkoop-owned which means the happy hour is extraordinary: $3 cocktails, $1 off Wynkoop drafts and edibles under $3. If you are really looking for a throwback to the gangster days, join them on April 8th and 22nd to be serenaded by Frank Sinatra impersonator Derek Evilsizor. Gaetano’s will always continue to be one of Denver’s classic hangouts; the Smaldones wouldn’t have had it any other way.
3760 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211