Glenwood’s Italian Underground: Just like grandma used to make
December 2, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When Italian Underground owner Ashton Durrett speaks of his son, pride fills the kitchen like the aroma of simmering marinara.
“He does a damn good job with arrabbiata … That’s a great sauce,” said Ashton, as his son, Raine Durrett, tops pans of freshly made lasagna with mozzarella cheese. “Having Raine here affords me time away. He sees (the restaurant) from a different perspective. I think he’s a little more astute at business than me.”
At 24, Raine has been making his way around the Italian Underground kitchen his whole life. Ashton’s brother, Gregory Durrett, established the Glenwood Springs restaurant in 1983. Ashton came on full time as a partner around 1988. “It’s always been a family sort of thing,” Ashton said. “My mother was Italian. Her parents came from the Old Country. We are very traditional. That’s how important family is.”
Opening the cozy Italian eatery in the basement at 715 Grand Ave. was a natural progression for the Durrett brothers. “My family was in the restaurant business, so it was pretty much a given. My relatives had Buffalo Valley and the Red Steer Restaurant,” Ashton said. “I guess we were called to serve ” literally. That was our heritage.”
Savory menu items such as spaghetti with arrabbiatta sauce and chicken cacciatore have been perfected over the last 25 years. “They’re recipes we’ve pretty much put together over the years, my brother and I have refined them,” Ashton said. “I think we’re pretty eclectic down here. My grandparents are from northern Italy, from the northern provinces.”
As he prepped in the kitchen, chopping onions and green pepper, Ashton credited his family and staff ” who are treated like family ” for the restaurant’s longevity and popularity. “I used to tell people if my family wanted to see me they’d have to come down to the restaurant. It’s a great little environment … it’s like having people over to your house,” he said. “I think we just enjoy what we do. It’s like having our own extended family here. We’re all in it together, we all work together, help one another. I don’t consider myself as much of an employer but more as part of the team. I feel very blessed.”
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Gregory retired nine years ago, at age 60, and now shares his time between Italy and Glenwood Springs. Raine, who graduated with a degree in ethnic studies from the University of Colorado, can be found working along side his dad in the Italian Underground kitchen. “I like being here in the kitchen during the day. It’s nice and mellow, more my speed,” Raine said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it to get the positive feedback. It makes me feel good to see how happy my dad makes people. I just like to help my dad. He’s helped me a lot.”
Many of Raine’s best memories involve the family-owned-and-operated restaurant which is open from 5-10 p.m. daily. “Just being here with my dad, prepping, making pizzas, I’ve spent a lot of time in this kitchen,” he said. “It’s been like a second home down here.”
Whether it’s baking loaves of homemade bread”between 60 to 80 during the busy summer months”or adding kick to their arrabbiatta sauce, the Durretts’ goal is to share their family’s Old World cuisine in a comfortable environment.
“I’ve always felt it was a privilege to own a business in Glenwood,” Ashton said. “We just try to put out a good product for a reasonable price without breaking the bank.”
With 14 tables, a quaint bar and family photos peppering the brick walls, the Italian Underground offers the perfect setting for a romantic pasta dinner paired with a bottle of Chianti or pizza night with the family. “We don’t do reservations, we don’t do parties. We’re here for the guy who just wants to eat,” Ashton said. “It’s a good touchstone for a lot of the locals who come back here. I carry what I think is a very good selection of Italian wines. You gotta love what you do.”
Any time spent watching the Durrett family at work proves that.