Pete Contos, a founding father of Denver’s restaurant scene, died on Sunday. He was 85.
Contos was the longtime owner of Pete’s Kitchen and its neighbor, Pete’s Satire Lounge, on East Colfax Avenue. An employee who did not wish to be identified confirmed the death Monday morning.
Within the last year, Pete’s Kitchen celebrated its 30th anniversary selling all-day gyros, souvlaki, kabobs and more underneath a neon sign at the corner of Colfax and Race Street. Satire Lounge was Contos’ first Denver business. It opened nearly 60 years ago.
The restaurateur immigrated to Denver from Greece in 1956. He worked his way up in the industry from dishwasher to busboy, and barback to bartender. By 2006, he was inducted into the Foodservice Hall of Fame. The plaque dedicated to him said the following:
“Over the years, (Contos) has quietly lent a helping hand to people in need, whether it’s paying medical bills, lending money to buy homes or financing an education. He is known to help former employees to start their own business and regularly does such humanitarian deeds as serving holiday dinners to the elderly and neighborhood people.
A dedicated family man with a quick wit, Pete keeps his door open and his cell phone on to anyone in need and has no plans to retire anytime soon saying ‘I’m having too much fun. I wish everyone would love their job as much as I do.’”
Contos’ other restaurants include Gyros Place, University Cafe, Greek Town and Central One.
Calls made to the Contos family on Monday were not immediately returned.