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Staple of Grand Junction dining scene closes suddenly after nearly 25 years in business

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Photo: Alex Forsett, Rocky Mountain PBS

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — After almost a quarter century in business, a Grand Junction staple is suddenly closing its doors.

Brunella Gualerzi and her husband, Ron Hall, announced the closure of their restaurant, Il Bistro Italiano, by sending an email to the community and posting a sign to the restaurant door Wednesday, Jan. 18.

“I felt proud to bring a piece of my Italy to Grand Junction and to share it with so many of you,” wrote Gualerzi, who was born in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy and moved to Colorado in 1990 to study at what was then called Mesa State University. “You truly made me feel part of this community and I was so proud and honored when I became an American citizen 10 years ago.”

In her email, Gualerzi explained that she and Hall had recently pursued a “dream” of theirs to start a business packaging and selling some of their bistro products in grocery stores (she said Guy Fieri gave her the idea when he visited Il Bistro for his Food Network Show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”).

That business, called Brunella's Kitchen, operates out of a separate facility.

“There was no way for me to pursue this other business and run the Bistro as well, so we entered into a partnership with my then sous chefs so that they would own a percentage of the restaurant,” Gualerzi wrote.

Gualerzi continued to write that the relationship with the sous chefs, who she did not name, “deteriorated quickly and unexpectedly” in the last couple of days and that there was no way to move forward.

“I dissolved the partnership but that left me with nobody to run the Bistro. I am too involved with the other project and I have partners to whom I made commitments for the Brunella's Kitchen venture to also consider,” Gualerzi said. “I had to choose between the two and the Bistro lost even though it broke my heart."

The letter posted outside Il Bistro Italian, Jan. 18, 2023.

Gualerzi opened Il Bistro in 1998, just four years after graduating from college. That was also the year she met Hall, who was the manager at The Winery Restaurant in Grand Junction. The two married a year later, and Hall joined Il Bistro in 2000.

On Valentine’s Day of 2000, Gualerzi first served the “Rosetta,” a pasta dish with rosemary ham and provolone cheese served in a spicy tomato cream sauce. The Rosetta became the restaurant’s signature dish — it’s the first item on the menu — and according to a February 2022 article from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, she has made the dish more than 180,000 times.

The restaurant was a local favorite. Visit Grand Junction included Il Bistro on its list of "must-try" restaurants, emphasizing Gualerzi's use of local ingredients and Colorado wines.

Gualerzi said the Rosetta is one of the items she and Hall are prioritizing with their new business.

For now, the couple is trying to figure out next steps. Gualerzi, in her email, said the restaurant would refund any unused gift cards, and that they would open a couple days a week — only for a few hours at a time — in order to sell off their remaining wine and liquor.

“I don't think I know the words to express all the emotions that are in my heart right now,” Gualerzi wrote at the end of her email. “The best I can do is a big, capitol [sic] letters, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!”


Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

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