What began as a three-month temporary closure to fix hail damage and do minor updates in April 2018 turned into a two-year renovation project for one of North Denver’s iconic restaurants. When Earnest Food Hall opened its doors at the end of February, the name change wasn’t the only difference.
Longtime customers of Ernie’s may be struck by the new open floor plan of the restaurant — the fireplace is gone, the canvas walls on the patio have been upgraded to include that space into the main room, and the old booths have given way to long communal tables.
For Joe Vostrejs and Sterling Robinson, two of the owners, the changes reflect what they believe the space has always been: a community hub for North Denver. The new tables “function like picnic tables in a park,” Vostrejs said.
Food service and a full coffee bar is now at the counter. Customers have traditional full meal offerings, but can also now pick from an array of freshly made small plates available throughout the day. The classic bar is still there as well, but it’s been shortened to add more seating.
Back in the 1940s, the land was going to be used as a Dodge dealership, but instead, Ernie Capillupo opened Ernie’s Supper Club in 1948. While the restaurant changed hands over the years, it was always known as a place people from across North Denver would congregate, and in recent years, it was also known as one of the best pizza places around. Today, Ernest Capillupo’s picture still hangs on the wall, a reminder of the restaurant’s long North Denver history.
While the restaurant looks a bit different, Robinson wants longtime and new customers alike to know that pizza is still one of their top priorities. The old ovens have been replaced with specialized pizza ovens that increase their capacity from 40 pies an hour to 240 and, yes, they will be delivering soon, as well.
The change from a conventional restaurant to a food hall isn’t just cosmetic or slick branding though. The owners hope residents come for meals, but also believe the food hall layout broadens its appeal. They welcome the work-from-home crowd to buy a cup of coffee or snack and use one of the new electrical outlet-equipped tables. They welcome business meetings and community gatherings and they otherwise want North Denver residents to know they are welcome to enjoy the space throughout the day and evening without the time pressures of a traditional restaurant.
The reopening should come as a relief for the throng of residents who have been posting on social media asking for updates during the closure. The longer the restaurant was closed, the more people started to ask whether it was being sold, something the owners did consider, according to Vostrejs. He said they had a “very lucrative” offer and discussed the idea with the other owners, but they didn’t want to see the building scraped and instead decided to dedicate the time needed to reopen the restaurant in a new configuration to fit the wants and needs of North Denver, settling on the food hall format.
Whether you have been salivating, missing Ernie’s pizza for two years or never stepped foot inside the old restaurant, check out the new Earnest Food Hall — you won’t be disappointed.
Earnest Food Hall is located at 2915 W. 44th Ave. in Sunnyside. Call 303-955-5580 or visit earnesthalldenver.com.