Good food is just a small slice of what you’ll get at Treppeda’s Restaurant in Niwot, Colorado, though “good” does not even begin to describe the birthday meal I enjoyed there last week with twelve of my closest friends and family members. Immediately upon walking through the door we were greeted by a host of smiling and attentive staff, eager to please and impress. And impress they did with bottles of Prosecco already on ice and beautiful arrangements of charcouterie waiting on the tables, not to mention the sensational menu items (every noodle, gnocchi, and ravioli homemade) that followed. While it was a special occasion, this kind of treatment and attention to detail is always the norm here; everyone is like family, and making customers happy has forever been their number one priority.
Established in 1996, Howard Treppeda opened the doors of his deli and market, “On my birthday, coincidentally.” Having just moved back to Colorado from Amsterdam, Treppeda set out to create an eatery with a European feel—an endeavor he says he had always known he would undertake one day thanks to his Italian roots.
Situated at 300 2nd Avenue, Treppeda’s has an atmosphere as quaint and vibrant as the small town in which it has been for the last 17 years. The spacious stone patio out front leads into a cozy deli and elegant bar, with an adjoining room for fine dining that is fancy without being pretentious. The tones, the smells, the designs all point straight back to the heart of Italy from where Howard drew his inspiration and developed his passion for feeding people.
But Treppeda’s has not always been recognized as the destination and core of community that it is today.
I was barely old enough to remember when Howard first catered for my parents’ Christmas party—a service his restaurant has always offered, and continues to offer. Throughout my childhood I remember lunches at his deli, my restrictive young taste buds never venturing far from the beloved Chicken Parmigiana sandwich. In high school, Howard offered me my first job, and I happily took orders behind the counter, making coffees and cutting those infamous gigantic fudge brownies.
He also gave my older brother his first job making sandwiches behind the deli. His sister and now his own children work there. His brother runs the website and social media, and often performs live music… Notice the trend? When I asked Howard what drives the ideas behind everything he’s done with the restaurant, he responded, “What means more in life than family, food and music?”
Howard’s love of music has ancestral roots just as deep as his love of food. As his general manager, Kent Cottle explained, “Everything with Howard is tied strongly to his parents.” Howard’s father was a jazz musician, so it’s no wonder that every Thursday night the restaurant hosts live jazz with musicians the likes of celebrated New Orleans legend, Henry Butler. It’s also easy to see where he got his inspiration to start the free Niwot music festival, Jazz On 2nd Avenue, now in its third year. “We wanted to make it a music, food and arts festival,” explained Howard, “and we wanted the caliber of all three to be on the same plane. It features all genres of jazz and world class food—I really believe that.” Among those food vendors have been Sushi Zanmai, L’Atelier, Jax Fish House, Dale Lamb and Treppeda’s itself. In addition to keeping admission free to the public, instituting an element of education is also something Howard aspires to for the future of the festival.
Creating Jazz On 2nd Avenue is only one of the many changes Howard and his restaurant have gone through over the years. Expanding the deli and market to include fine casual dining in 2003 involved taking over another 1,800 square feet, installing a full bar, and getting everything up to code. Howard identified some of the biggest challenges as, “moving with the times, being in a small town, going through Y2K and the dotcom crash, and identifying myself.”
And not only did the restaurant survive these transitions, but did so while, as Kent Cottle put it, “keeping everybody believing along the way.” Treppeda’s managed to keep it small and avoid the “restaurateur disease,” getting too big too fast. As some of his personal milestones, Howard listed the jazz festival, starting his mobile pizza oven four years ago, and supporting the local food movement. “Slow times make you work a little harder,” said Howard, “so out of the slow times, I’ve become a member of the Boulder County Farmer’s Market and the Slow Food Movement. Doing jazz and creating that sense of community has been one of our greatest successes.”
Supporting local growers, gardeners, and livestock farmers is nothing new for Treppeda’s. Howard’s family came to this country opening up a nursery and farming in the Hudson Valley where he was raised. “I grew up supporting local farmers and that has never changed for me. The food chain is in jeopardy, and I feel much better when I’m eating local.” Though not new, this sentiment has driven Treppeda’s to participate in the 10% Local Food Shift, sourcing as much food and beverage as possible locally, participating in Agriburbia and growing a lot of their own produce at “The Old Farm,” a mere quarter mile from the restaurant.
Howard recognizes the cultural shift that includes the Niwot dining scene in that people today want to know where their food is coming from. Treppeda’s has been able to capitalize on this societal concern by bringing his mobile pizza oven to the Longmont Farmers’ Market, which he believes has come a long way with its improved parking and two brand new pavilions. “I really feel that the farmers have no problem showing their product there. I get to sell my pizza elbow to elbow with the farmers, and I love doing it.”
Treppeda’s GM, Kent, admits that Howard’s pizza—homemade sauce, great cheeses, and farm fresh basil—is what attracted him to the restaurant in the first place. In addition to the market every Saturday, April through November, the pizza oven is also used at special and corporate events, and each Thursday night on the restaurant’s patio. Howard also uses the oven to make homemade sausage, and had me drooling after explaining that every couple of weeks, three chefs compete and do a blind tasting to see whose is the best.
It’s hard to believe that here I am—eleven years later—celebrating my birthday at the same small-town deli where I once earned my first dollar. Treppeda’s has come a long way over the years, but by no means has it stopped evolving. Howard wants to see the restaurant become a big part of the community within Niwot, but also Boulder County, Colorado, and even overseas as he continues to develop his latest project: tours through Italy and wine country. As Kent aptly described the vision of Treppeda’s Restaurant’s future role, “We are unifying this country with Italy through food and music. Family is a big part of that.” This only seems fitting, as Italy is the place where the idea for Treppeda’s all began, where its roots are firmly planted. But, right here in the small town of Niwot, is where anyone can go to experience great food and be a part of the Treppeda’s family. And that will never change.