The only constant is change. Perhaps no one knows this better than the community of the Northside neighborhood of Denver. The area near 37th and Navajo — the Navajo Street Arts District — has resisted the rapid change happening in every direction around it. I’ve been working on that block for about a decade now, and I’ve had the best seat in the house to watch the change around me.
The Navajo Street Arts District is one beautiful, historic block. You’ll find a few art galleries — Pirate, Next, Edge, Zip 37 and the Clear Creek Academy — plus the historic Bug Theatre, and one very special restaurant. Patsy’s Inn. This remarkable gem of a restaurant opened in 1921, and very little ever changed within over the decades since. As the neighborhood grew and changed around them, you could still count on Patsy’s Inn for a bowl of homemade noodles in red sauce, some great wine and fantastic company. The rich red booths and giant wall mural helped identify the place, giving it a sense of history and character you couldn’t find anywhere else.
And now, what was once Denver’s oldest Italian restaurant has closed. The reasons cited were mostly health issues from owners Ron Cito and Kim DeLancey — Ron and Kimmie to those that know them. And everyone in this community knows them. You can sit on the bench in front of Patsy’s just about any time of the day and you’ll find people from the neighborhood walking past the restaurant saying hi to Kimmie or Ron as they stroll past, as though they’re greeting old family friends. Kimmie shouts out a loud “hi!” and often runs to greet her friend with a hug and a smile.
The response has been tough to watch from my window across the street. People stop by still, hoping to grab a bowl of their favorite pasta and are greeted by a sign in the window. The Facebook page for Patsy’s is filled with memories and messages of gratitude to Ron and Kimmie.
“Our hearts are broken tonight but our lives are fuller because of Patsy’s,” offers one comment. “Very good memories of celebrating my mother’s 75th surprise birthday there,” recalls another. “Where will we go for every single special occasion we ever celebrate?” questions a third. Photos of one customer’s child’s first birthday, stories of proposals and lots of candid snaps of Ron and Kimmie among their neighborhood friends fill the Facebook page.
I have special memories of Patsy’s too. During some very difficult times in my life, the staff there cared for me. When my office was robbed, they took special care to watch out for me. I fell in love with my future husband at my favorite table by the window. I had their amazing Caesar salad a few times a week for months. Ron and Kimmie kept something special happening over there, and I was blessed to be able to watch it for nearly 10 wonderful years.
The neighborhood surrounding Patsy’s truly is lucky to have had this wonderful gem for 95 years. But, the inevitable change is happening here too. A new restaurant opens in the space in the near future, and I’m sure lots of wonderful memories will begin there as well. Me? I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Ron and Kimmie for giving me so many treasured memories and for showing me what words like “neighborhood” and “community” really mean.