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Italian eatery to close

Naomi Havlen
Lucci's owner Bill Tuite pours a glass of Chianti Saturday night. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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Lucci’s, Aspen’s subterranean hideaway for affordable Italian food, will end its 14-year run in Aspen on April 17.

Owner Bill Tuite said on Friday that he had made up his mind to close the restaurant at the end of last summer.

“We’ve had some good nights where I wonder why I’m closing, but the next night is slow and I remember why,” he said. “I developed relationships with many of my customers, and I expected them year after year, but some are getting older and they’ve stopped coming every year. There used to be really, truly incredible people coming to this town, and they’re not coming anymore.”

Although his lease officially ends at the end of August, Tuite arranged to be released from the agreement early.

“This way I’m out at the end of the winter – I don’t have to carry said, and lately he’s put more time into the restaurant than he wanted to.

Tuite has owned or co-owned the restaurant since November 1990, when he opened it with his cousin, Larry Calamine. Because of a disagreement with another potential business partner over what the restaurant was going to be named, common ground was reached when they decided to name their new business after the building’s then-landlord, Ray Lucchini.

“You’ll never go wrong naming your restaurant after your landlord,” Tuite said with a chuckle. “But people still think it used to be his restaurant.”

The concept for the restaurant began when Tuite realized he wanted to create an affordable Italian restaurant in Aspen with some of his family’s recipes – Tuite’s mother is Italian. He said he had eaten eggplant parmesan around town and knew he could do a better job.

“My mother was one of 12 brothers and sisters, and God rest her soul, she wasn’t a good cook or baker. It was all my other aunts – the eggplant Parmesan recipe is one of my aunt’s,” he said. “Our original lasagna was a family recipe. My chefs over the years have played with the recipe because they always think they can improve it. But they never do.”

Chefs have added some traditional Italian dishes to the restaurant’s fare, Tuite said, like osso buco, a veal shank with the bone inside. “Real Italians suck the marrow out of the bone,” Tuite said.

He said that while he will miss his customers, he is not going anywhere and will still see them around town.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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