When Michael and Emira Colacci came to Louisville, Colo. from Campobasso, Italy in 1919, they decided to open a restaurant for their fellow paisans who were moving to the region to work in the booming coal industry. They called it the Blue Parrot, and the Colaccis designed a sandwich specifically for Italian Americans who would no doubt be hungry for a taste of the old country after a day in the coal mines. They took a sausage patty and put it on a burger bun with good red sauce and some cheese. Then they dubbed it the “wopburger.” This wopburger worked its way into local lore and is now among the city’s true local delicacies.
But the wopburger almost met the same fate as Mussolini himself last month when an East Coast Italian American who had recently moved to the neighborhood, James Gambino, took umbrage at the appellation. And, as is the way of many folks from the New York metropolitan area who relocate to more “quaint” environs, Gambino tried to alter the culture of Louisville, Colo. to suit his own tastes.
Gambino went to the restaurant’s owners, the grandchildren of Michael and Emira Colacci. When he got no satisfaction there he went to the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, DC, which expressed its “alarm” at the menu item in a written letter. But the descendants of the Colaccis weren’t persuaded to change the name.
Then Mr. Gambino took a more drastic step, petitioning the Boulder Valley School District, which for the past 10 years has bought tomato sauce from the Blue Parrot for lunch service in the schools to the tune of about $20,000 a year.
A district official then leaned on the restaurant until they agreed to change the name of the sandwich to the Italian burger.
I tell this story not only because there’s not much going on in the local culinary world this week, but also because there’s a twist to the tale, which I will reveal after I fill you in on the foodstuffs.
Earth Fare has a couple installments of their culinary series this week: On Wednesday you will learn three variations on the preparation of white beans and kale, a nutritionally dense dish that can wear many different tastes. On Friday they will be making low-fat cheesesteaks.
And local energy drink makers Burn have constructed a new sugar-free drink that has been built from the ground up as opposed to merely tinkering with an old formula. This new concoction has epigallocatechin gallate, green tea extract and calcium and it comes in 16-ounce cans.
Now back to the wopburger.
After the restaurant’s owners ordered new menus with the name change on them, local customers and national talk-show hosts poured on some righteous indignation of their own, support which gave the Colacci family the fortitude to keep the wopburger – as is – on the menu.
And as for James Gambino, I hear they have a special pot of sauce waiting in the kitchen for the next time he decides to come in and have lunch.