Peppo Nino closing ‘bittersweet’ for Rosa family
One of Glenwood Springs’ longest-running family traditions ended rather quietly in late September when Tony Rosa decided it was time to retire from the restaurant business that his parents took over at the corner of Seventh and Grand back in 1947.
Peppo Nino Italian Restaurant, where Rosa and his siblings, sister Angela Hancock and brother Joe Rosa Jr., literally grew up, has been sold and is set to become a lunch and dinner place called CO Ranch House Kitchen later this fall.
The new owners are Tom Brennan and Kristina Clary, who have a long history of restaurant management in Crested Butte and in the eastern U.S. Clary most recently was the opening manager at the slope-side Elk Camp restaurant on Snowmass Mountain.
Rosa stills own the building at 702 Grand Ave., including the corner space that houses the separately owned and managed Riviera Supper Club. He will continue to reside in the upstairs apartment where it all started, but said he is looking forward to enjoying all that Glenwood has to offer now that he won’t be so busy.
His parents, Joseph and Anne Rosa, bought what was then known as the 702 Club in 1947, and it’s been a family affair ever since.
The restaurant name was changed to the Riviera, meaning “by the water” in Italian; it was so named for Joe Rosa’s Italian immigrant heritage and for the fact that the restaurant overlooked the Colorado River.
“People would have dinner here, then go through to the other side for the evening’s entertainment,” Rosa recalled while sitting in the now-stripped-out former Peppo Nino dining room with his sister last week.
“We were all born and raised here, and this was our living room,” Rosa said of the downstairs extension of their home. “We’d have our breakfast down here before school and as soon as we were old enough to work we’d help in the restaurant.”
The name “Peppo-Nino” means “little Joe” and “little Anthony” in Italian, Rosa explained. It was coined for what Anne Rosa started as Glenwood Springs’ first 3.2 beer and wine bar in the mid-1960s when the main restaurant was moved to the Riviera space and eventually was sold.
Rosa took over Peppo Nino in 1974, and became the sole proprietor two years later shortly before his father passed away. It was around that time that he decided to return the family business to its Italian restaurant roots.
All in the family
“Tony, like my father, loved to cook,” offered Hancock, who returned to Glenwood Springs in the early 1980s when their mother passed away and began working with her brother at the restaurant again .
“The recipes that were passed down from my father were the same recipes used today,” she said. “The core menu stayed the same, and Tony added his own specials, which were also well-received by his customers.”
Hancock recalled in one of Walter Gallacher’s “Immigrant Stories” series that appeared in the Post Independent in August 2011 that most of her memories growing up revolved around working together as a family.
“That’s what we did, worked and shopped,” Hancock said in that interview. “Mom loved to stay up late at night after we closed the restaurant.
“She would actually put a towel over the clock so that we could stay up all night and bake,” Hancock continued. “She would say, ‘Angela, if you don’t know what time it is then you won’t get sleepy.’”
Hancock said the selling and closing of Peppo Nino is “bittersweet” for her and her brother.
“We’ve felt blessed to be able to work where we grew up,” she said. “We will miss our customers and the people we have worked with, and we also wish Kristina and Tom the best in their new venture.”
New ‘family’ place
Clary said she and business partner Brennan intend to maintain the “family friendly” nature of the historic extension of what’s become known as “restaurant row” along Seventh Street and up the 700 block of Grand Avenue with the opening of CO Ranch House.
“Innovative tavern food is what we’re calling it,” she said of a lunch and dinner menu that will include a variety of wild Colorado game appetizers and entrees, such as duck wings, elk burgers and a trout BLT, in addition to their own domestic burger, chicken, steak and rib innovations.
As many restaurants are doing these days, they plan to source as much of their meat and produce locally, Clary said.
Clary spent two years as manager at Elk Camp and prior to that was opening manager at Uley’s Cabin and Ice Bar in Crested Butte.
“While I was in Snowmass I gained some familiarity with the valley’s restaurant scene,” she said. “We saw what was happening down here in Glenwood, and decided it was the perfect time to get in.”
Brennan was executive chef at 9380 Restaurant located slope-side at Mount Crested Butte for eight years, but wanted to be involved with a more year-round restaurant.
He said it was the patio out back behind the Rosa building is what sold him on the Peppo Nino space and prompted him and Clary to make on offer on the business in September.
“It’s a great place for dining, and I can see maybe having some acoustic music out here,” Brennan said Friday while standing amid what’s now his staging and work area for the kitchen and dining room remodel job.
“We both really liked the Glenwood Springs area and decided this was where we wanted to be,” he said of his and Clary’s decision to go into business together.
Inside, they are working to incorporate the original reach-in cooler that is built into the north wall of the kitchen, and will make use of the original meat block as well.
They have also applied with the city of Glenwood Springs for an exemption to keep the historic “Peppo Nino Italian Restaurant” sign that is painted on the side of the second story, in honor of the Rosa family’s many years on that corner.
The dining room space is to include a small bar, and the menu and decor will carry a Southwestern theme, Clary and Brennan said.
“We plan to be open for lunch and dinner, and will have the same menu all day long,” Clary said.
A December opening is tentatively planned for the new CO Ranch House Kitchen.
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