Gaetano's Eccellente Cucina & Cocktails is embracing the mob's checkered past, and not just with those standard Italian restaurant tablecloths. A Highland resto established in the '40s by a family of bootleggers & illegal casino owners, Gaetano's is now reopening with homage after homage to its shady past: a “classic dark-wood, warm red ambiance” includes oxblood leather booths, each named for a North Denver Italian family with ties to the restaurant's past (and reserved for them when they come in) and outfitted with dice & nudie girl playing cards, so prepare to want to see every hand split. All booths face the door -- so no one has their back to the entrance -- as a nod to the former clientele (note: actually nodding to the former clientele could get you whacked no matter where you're sitting), so enjoy constantly "salute!"-ing everyone who walks in with bottles from an Italian-centric wine list, Moretti beer, or 'tails like a flamed orange peel Blood & Sand. Cultivate a Soprano-like gut with meaty plates like sausage lasagna, veal parm, pork chops served in a black olive/ red wine puree, and an NY strip with brown butter gnocchi, or go the pasta route with a pancetta/ peas carbonara, or a tomato/ beef/ pork bolognese over rigatoni. There's also lighter stuff like garlic-steamed PEI mussels, bruschetta, and all manor of shared plates, though if you think a meal means just stopping in for a couple bites, you're clearly not cut from an Italian cloth.
This restaurant was founded in the 1930s by the Smaldone family, whose sons went on to become some of Denver's most well-known mobsters, prides itself on its heritage and authentic Italian cuisine. Although the Smaldones ran a small bootlegging operation in the restaurant during Prohibition, nowadays the extensive menu only includes drinks of the non home-brewed variety.