That’s what Pass Key Restaurant in Pueblo, Colorado says of its signature sandwich, the Pass Key Special. It’s an Italian sausage sandwich served on a loaf with lettuce and plenty of mustard, fries and sweet peppers.
You can have it with your choice of cheese: American, Swiss or Provolone. I chose provolone to go with mine. They also have the Super Pass Key Special which is basically the same sandwich with all three cheeses.
I’ve never had an Italian sausage sandwhich before. Even Spouse who grew up in New Jersey with their big Italian population, had never heard of it before. It was different. Lovely with the spicy mustard and nicely seasoned homemade sausage patty.
The real surprise of our visit to this restaurant were the Munchers. You know how servers at all restaurants will try to make you order more, right?
We were asked about appetizers after we placed our order of course. Since 30-year old Stepson was with us, Spouse ordered his favorite “Tater Tots” and commented how it was always “someone’s” favorite. The poor Stepson…he just smiled and indulged his daddy….didn’t seem to mind that his dad was acting as if he was still a 10-year old. You just have to love him for that!
Ohhhh….but these Tater Tots were not your ordinary Tater Tots. These Munchers are made for men of sterner stuff. It’s shredded potato with cheddar cheese and diced jalapeños, breaded and deep-fried. Luscious, tiny little jewels they were!
Pass Key Restaurant is owned by the Pagano Family who have owned the restaurant since 1952. According to their menu, the restaurant started as a drive-in. Eventually, they hired young people to help out, and these employees’ children later worked the same jobs their parents worked.
The Italians in Colorado have an interesting history. In fact, during the infamous Ludlow Massacre of 1914, when the Colorado National Guardsmen attempted to break a miner’s strike by burning down their tent village, the 2 women and 11 children who died in the massacre were all Italian immigrants.
You see, as the early Italian immigrants came off Ellis Island, they were recruited to work in the mines of Colorado. They came here, with no knowledge of the language and brought with them their food, their culture, and the legacy of hard work.
You will still find a lot of Italian families and restaurants in the different parts of Colorado, most of them operated for generations by the same family.
In Colorado Springs, a local legend is The Pumpkin Man, Nick Venetucci. He was a simple farmer who opened his pumpkin farm to school kids who would come in and pick pumpkins for their jack o’lanterns – all for free. This became a local tradition shared by every generation of Colorado school kids since the 1950’s, including the Stepson.