In advance of its upcoming 70th anniversary celebration, Gaetano’s is launching its first significant menu change in four years at the revered Italian restaurant.
Kevin Savoy, Executive Chef at Gaetano’s, is directing the new menu effort. Savoy signed on with the venerable establishment last year, he’s a restaurant industry veteran who has worked with some of the city’s most acclaimed chefs including Frank Bonnano, Matt Selby and Goose Sorenson.
Savoy says you must proceed with caution when updating a new menu in a legendary place like Gaetano’s. “We can’t alienate our regulars,” he says. “But the neighborhood is changing and we want to offer something for younger adults and neighborhood diners who are new to the area and our place.”
“My goal with the new menu,” Savoy says, “is to mix new culinary elements with the old-school supper club standards here. We’re keeping the familiar and time-tested, and adding a hint of something new that appeals to the newer audience we have coming into Gaetano’s.”
With the new menu, Savoy also aims to shatter some misconceptions about Denver’s long-lived Italian stronghold. “People that haven’t been here in a long time,” he says, “they might think we’re behind the times and we’re a gloppy & sloppy, bang ‘em in-bang ‘em out kind of place. But that’s not true.”
Standard bearers of the menu include Gaetano’s made-from-scratch Italian pastas — from homemade tortellini and lasagna to fettuccine and gnocchi. Longtime faves such as clams & pasta, house-made meatballs and locally made sausages and pasta-free dishes also remain and serve as reminders of the restaurant’s role as a cornerstone of Denver’s bygone mobster culture.
But Savoy is keen to point out that Gaetano’s is more than just old-school Italian. “For example,” he says, “we don’t do nighttime pizzas any longer. They been replaced with healthier and lighter flatbreads dressed up with an array of fresh ingredients.” The new menu will be complimented by Savoy’s popular nightly specials that feature seasonal vegetables, locally sourced meats, and sauces that aren’t red.
“Yes, we have a Rat Pack/Goodfellas vibe,” he says. “But we elevate that experience with attention to detail, high-quality ingredients, fresh ideas and letting the food speak for itself. We have 70 years of history here,” he notes, “I have to be true to that and respect that. I have to take my ego out of the picture and cook for the guests, not me. We have a lot of people that love us for what we already do.”
Savoy is especially proud of the 2017 Westword Best of Denver accolades he helped Gaetano’s land this year, including Best Old-School Italian Restaurant and Best Italian Restaurant. Those awards serve as vivid proof of the caliber of Gaetano’s red-white-&-green wonders, and its ability to please both retro- and neo-minded lovers of Italian fare and bar culture.
“We are doing some fresh new things, but we will never take piccata and marsala off of our menu,” Savoy promises. “We will always make pasta, meatballs and tiramisu from scratch. There are some things here we cannot replace or drop because we have to remain true to ourselves and guests. That’s a commitment we will always uphold.”