Cuginos restaurant will close its doors at the end of the month
March 8, 2019
Editor’s note: This story was edited at 9:15 p.m.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When John Gamradt locks the doors of Cuginos for the final time March 22, it will mark the end of the Italian restaurant's long and iconic run in Steamboat Springs.
"That's really why I dragged it out as long as I did," Gamradt said of the closing. "I felt like I needed to do something to try to make sure Cuginos continues in Steamboat Springs, but it just didn't work out."
Gamradt, who purchased Cuginos four years ago, is moving to North Carolina to be closer to his children who moved there with his former wife.
"I ran over a million ways to make it work here, but at the end of the day, my kids were the most important thing," Gamradt said, "I want to thank everybody. We have had some really great customers and made some great friends here. It's going to be bittersweet, and I'm going to miss it."
Gamradt said the restaurant, at 41 Eighth St., has modified hours in its final days. It will be open at noon for lunch Thursday through Sunday and open for dinner every night.
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The Cuginos’ story began in 1981 when good friends John Salvia and Robert “Angie” Angelaccio opened Sal's Pizzeria near the corner of Ninth and Oak streets where Back Door Grill is now located. The business partners envisioned a neighborhood pizzeria like the ones they remembered in the boroughs near Philadelphia where they grew up.
Sal's might not have happened if not for Ken Gold, who was friends with both men and working in the real estate business at the time. He found a spot he thought might offer Salvia a chance to pursue his dream and asked him to take look.
At first, Gold recalls, his friends were less than impressed. The space was small with just enough room for a tiny kitchen, four seats and a countertop. There was a hair salon in the front, and the former occupant of the space they planned to use for Sal’s had run a pet store.
But Gold, Salvia and Angie looked past the hurdles and remained confident they could capture the feel of pizzerias they had fallen in love with back home.
In the four years that followed, Sal's Pizzeria found a strong following among many of the locals who liked the pizzeria's dedication to providing great food and friendly service.
Eventually Salvia moved to Arizona and sold his part of the business to Angie's cousin Henry Arcolesse in 1984.
The switch in ownership brought many changes as the owners added a second floor to the building and moved the hair salon upstairs. The downstairs was expanded to include 32 seats — not nearly enough to meet the demand for the restaurant's growing popularity — and the name became Cuginos, which means cousins in Italian.
"It was always a locals place," Arcolesse said. "Originally, we just had pizza and did a little bit of spaghetti. But it just kept growing."
Arcolesse had worked in a bakery in upstate New York, and Cuginos was a chance for him to use his talents.
"I was baking rolls and bread for about 10 restaurants out of that little space when I first came to town," he said. "So eventually, we converted it into a full-blown Italian restaurant."
Steamboat residents and visitors flocked to the restaurant. Those who showed up late for dinner normally found themselves waiting in a long line.
In 1989, the cousins expanded the business and opened Cuginos II in the Clock Tower Building on the mountain. Salvia came back and ran the downstairs restaurant, and Gold got involved running the bar and nightclub upstairs. Cuginos II lasted until 1992 but was never able to capture the same popularity as the downtown location.
In 1995, Arcolesse moved his mother, who had suffered a stroke, to the extended care center in Steamboat. He wanted to spend more time with her and left the business. His cousin continued to run Cuginos, and in 1997, opened Fedora's, a fine dining restaurant upstairs.
In 1999, Angie sold Cuginos to Jeff and his father Charles Hubler, who moved the business to a new, larger location across Lincoln Avenue to Yampa Street. The Hublers owned the restaurant from 1999 to 2014.
"It's an iconic symbol of that time period in Steamboat Springs," Gold said of Cuginos downtown. "I don't think that any place in town has really replaced that. It was a gathering place, and anybody who was anybody was there for lunch or stopped by for dinner."