Dolce Vita ends long run downtown

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Susan and Rick Crippen are shown Saturday before serving dinner for the last time at Dolce Vita in downtown Grand Junction.

True to tradition, Susan Crippen didn’t know what Saturday’s dinner specials would be until around 4 p.m., when Dolce Vita chefs looked at the day’s fresh ingredients and got creative.

It’s been that way for 18 years, since the restaurant opened at 336 Main St. in Grand Junction. And it was that way Saturday, the last day it was open.

After making what they described as an excruciating decision, owners Rick and Sue Crippen decided on Christmas Day to close the Italian restaurant.

“When they did the construction downtown, a lot of us were in the middle of that construction and different businesses reacted different ways,” Susan Crippen explained. “(The construction) basically shut it down for having anybody come in for six months out of the year, so that and the economy kind of spiraled it down. When downtown opened up again, we were not having the traffic like we used to have.”

Rick Crippen had been at the restaurant for 15 years and Susan Crippen for nine, and many of the employees had been there for six or seven years, Susan said. The couple made the decision on Christmas Day to close and decided Saturday would be the last day.

“I’m real sorry they’re closing,” said Dale Riley, to whom the Crippens gave wine corks so he could make birdhouses with them. He stopped by Saturday afternoon to give them a wooden bird feeder he’d made, a miniature porch swing that hangs in a tree.

In the lull between lunch and dinner, Rick was busy behind the bar, drying wine glasses and pouring drinks for the handful of people seated there. A couple sat near the window in a pool of milky sunshine, enjoying plates of pasta. Susan, a black towel tucked in the back pocket of her jeans, greeted customers and consulted with the servers.

“It’s really sad,” she said, glancing around the familiar, Mediterranean-inspired interior. And it will be sad for longtime customers who always knew where to get Pollo Alle Fragole, a chicken and strawberry dish that had been on the restaurant’s menu for much of its life.

“We can’t beat ourselves up about anything, we’re not bitter about anything,” Susan said. “We gave it everything we had, but you can only prepare so much and so far.”


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