The Galassos have been serving marinara-topped pasta, Italian-influenced sandwiches and hand-stretched pizza in Centennial for a decade now, but the family’s culinary roots in Colorado actually reach back half a century.
“The very first GeJo’s was opened by my great-grandmother, back in the mid-’60s, down south in Trinidad, Colorado,” Tony Galasso told Colorado Community Media. His father, uncle and grandparents opened more locations in the Denver metro area in the ’70s.
Galasso, 44, grew up in the business and remembers standing on a milk crate to make pizzas and wash dishes. Although he worked at GeJo’s II in Aurora as a high school student, his family stepped away from the restaurant industry in the late ’90s. Galasso, who began a career in the mortgage industry in the early 2000s, assumed he’d find a way back to the world of food someday.
“I had always wanted to get in the industry and carry on the family tradition,” Galasso said.
So when the space that used to house GeJo’s IV in the ’80s and ’90s became available, Galasso knew it was time to fulfill a dream he had nearly given up on and become a restaurant owner. After an extensive 20-month-long remodel, GeJo’s Original Italian Restaurant & Lounge opened in February 2012 near the intersection of Quebec Street and Dry Creek Road.
The eatery pays tribute to his father, uncle and grandparents as well as revives his great-grandmother’s family recipes. Galasso’s favorite entree is Geno’s Spaghetti Special which is topped with seasoned ground beef, a smooth marinara sauce and a homemade hot pepper blend for “a little kick.”
To this day, GeJo’s continues to be a family affair. Galasso said there’s no way he could run the business on his own.
“You rely on so many people and pieces to help you be successful,” he said, remarking on the assistance of his wife, his immediate family and his employees. His father is particularly dedicated and still “lives and breathes and bleeds the restaurant industry.”
But just as important is the community that backs GeJo’s. When restaurants were closed to in-person dining early in the pandemic, neighborhood folks were getting GeJo’s takeout regularly — sometimes three or four times a week, Galasso said.
“I know they put on a couple extra pounds because they were going above and beyond to support us,” he said.
Consistency, in your product and in your service, is what sets one restaurant apart from another, Galasso said. GeJo’s achieves that by always having a family member or an anchor employee at the restaurant overseeing operations.
That support is more valuable than ever, Galasso said. He and his wife have a 16-month old daughter and will soon be welcoming a second child. His challenge now, he said, is balancing work in the demanding restaurant business with time amid his growing family.
“Having a child of my own and another one on the way, family becomes more important than ever,” he said.