There was Eugene “Checkers,” Clyde “Flip Flop,” and Clarence “Chauncey,” and they opened Gaetano’s Restaurant, which is still in operation, under different ownership. The bulletproof front door the brothers put in to protect themselves remains, so it seems that the only thing missing is the mafias offices in the basement, where some say they organized crime and conducted illegal business.
The brothers all had criminal records, and all plead guilty to loan sharking. History suggests that they loaned $30,000 dollars a day at 5 percent interest a week. Between them also came tax evasion, bookmaking, gambling, burglary, and possession of illegal firearms. On a much more serious scale they were believed to have been involved with a number of murders but were never convicted.
While they had their negative connotations, there were also positive ones. History also suggests that they put at least five North Denver kids through school, fed struggling Italian families and donated money to churches and charitable organizations.
As a kid I remember catching the bouquet at a Smaldone wedding. Not until learning about Northern Colorado’s leading crime figures did I start to wonder if there was any relation. Turns out there is, Pat Smaldone, who was the groom and a friend of the family, is a relative to the brothers. I met up with him and his wife at Galeton’s, where they told me about going to Clyde’s funeral and some other Smaldone stories. I noticed the incredible artwork on the wall and Pat informed me that Clyde painted those while he is in prison.
One day when Pat was golfing, a retired health inspector inquired about his last name. When Pat told him he was in the Smaldone lineage, the inspector told him about a time he went to check a walk in refrigerator and found a group of men inside playing cards in suits. The inspector said he nodded and exited the restaurant.
The Smaldone tales still live on; to this day Pat still receives calls asking if they have the right Smaldone family.