Nothing quite sums up a mother’s love like hand-rolled lasagna and sugar-dusted creme puffs. The bigger the dish, the bigger the love, and no other restaurant captures this sentiment quite like Grammy’s Goodies in Wheatridge, CO. Located on a street corner and wrapped in a white picket fence, the cozy, red, checkered table-clothed restaurant tells a story of familial love.
The story begins in a vibrant coastal town on the Southern border of Italy.
Abruzzo, Italy, known for its lush green plains, scenic views and decadent cuisine, is where Lucille Acierno, AKA “Grammy” was born. Lucille learned the art of cooking from her mother, who learned from her mother, and so on. By the time she was twelve, Lucille migrated to the United States and brought her love for cooking with her.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Lucille was faithfully devoted to her church. She was the head of the Altar and Rosary Society, prepared all the meals for the organization, and her outstanding cooking soon earned her a reputation. According to her great-granddaughter Joeylyn and co-owner of Grammy’s Goodies, “She was the shit, pretty much. I don’t know how to put it any other way. I always joke about how she taught me to make our waffle cookies when I was five or six. When I was little, she used to teach me to say hail Mary in between making each cookie. Now, I make hundreds of dozens of cookies and I still say “Hail Mary” between each one.”
With tears in her eyes, Joeylyn says, “I still get choked up thinking about her while making them. All of our recipes come from Grammy, and although we put our own twist on them, you can still taste her cooking in everything we make.”
As Lucille grew older, her diagnosis of arthritis left her hands unable to work the same way they used to. Jocelyn says “She taught my mother, Vickie, everything she knew about cooking and baking, and soon my mom became her new set of hands.”
Just like her grandmother, Vickie fell in love with cooking, and ended up meeting her husband, Jeff, in a restaurant where they worked. They had two children, Joeylyn and George. Jeff was a truck driver, and Vickie was a stay at home mother who followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and became known for her ridiculously good cooking skills. In 2005, a friend who was more than familiar with Vickie’s infamously addictive Italian Christmas cookies, asked her to share his booth at the Festival Italiano in Lakewood, Colorado. Vickie tirelessly baked each cookie by hand, teaching her kids how to make them along the way. Her cookies sold out within a few short hours, thus setting the outdoor, farmers’ market style of “Grammy’s Goodies” into motion.
Vickie and Jeff found great success once they Americanized Grammy’s recipes, making the cookies as big as plates and pizzas as big as tires. Huge portion sizes became a consistent theme for Grammy’s Goodies. The successful business put both Joeylyn and George through college at Colorado State University. During the siblings’ time in college, Grammy’s Goodies was growing as an outdoor food business. “My brother and I would come home on the weekends with his fraternity brothers and my friends to help work the food stands,” says Joeylyn. “By my sophomore year, we were participating in over seventy-five festivals around Colorado. But, in 2015, my mom saw this open lot go for sale. When you do outdoor events you have to have all sorts of licenses, so we thought it would be a good spot to park all of our trailers.”
About a year after purchasing the lot, Grammy’s Goodies opened as a restaurant. Joeylyn says, it kind of “blew up from there.” The inside is decorated with photos of Grammy and her husband, as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who run the restaurant. People quickly fell in love with Grammy’s cozy atmosphere, decadent pizzas, pastas, buttery garlic knots (you get them free the first time you visit) and authentic Italian pastries.
In 2019, just before the pandemic, Grammy’s Goodies received a mysterious email that at first, Joeylyn says, “we thought was a scam.”
The email informed them that some of their customers from the past few weeks had been working for Guy Fieri’s famous TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” According to Joeylyn, “They began to call all hours of the night, asking for recipes and photos until they let us know we had been picked to do the show. My mom and Guy really hit it off. But like I said, none of us are professionally trained as chefs. We all just learned from Grammy. It’s kind of funny because if you watch the episode you’ll see our section is very homestyle with my mom and Guy just having a good old time, and then you see how at the next restaurant, he’s talking to like, a professional chef. We’re just not that. We’re a family.”
The show propelled the restaurant during a difficult time for small businesses, and Joeylyn says that “without the airing of that show, we might not have made it through the pandemic. We are forever grateful for that experience.”
Aside from the home cooking and cozy-quaint atmosphere, what makes Grammy’s Goodies so special is the family’s commitment to working with each other and keeping Grammy alive through her recipes.. Vickie, Jeff, Joeylyn, George, and George’s wife, Kylie, work at the restaurant every single day.
“I’m very blessed that I get to be with my family every day,” says Joeylyn. “I feel like whether you work with family, friends, or strangers you are going to have ups and downs. But when it comes to working with family, when the good days are good, they are really good. When the bad days are bad, I’m fighting with my brother as soon as we walk in, ready to beat him up.”
Joeylyn goes on to say, “my brother and I chose this for a reason. My brother got a degree in HR management, and I got a degree in interior design, but we chose here. And the reason we chose here is because of family.”
Nonetheless, she says, “I think what makes us special is that no matter what, we’re always here, everyday. You can come in tomorrow, we’re all here. If you come in next week, we’ll be here. My sister even brings her two kids here every single day. It’s never strangers running the business, it’s family, and it all started with Grammy.”