John Negri II’s career in aviation started years ago when he worked part-time at the Stapleton Airport as a “ramp rat.” That is, he prepared the aircraft for the next flight. “I fell in love with the business pretty quickly,” John says. After Stapleton closed, he and his coworkers were asked to move to Denver International Airport. Unfortunately, the commute was too difficult for John and he was forced to give up the job he loved so much. He continued to work full-time for Coors Ceramics (known today as CoorsTek), but the passion for aviation never died. As fate would have it, John’s brother flew the helicopter for 9 News and often frequented the Rocky Mountain Airport in Broomfield. He told John about a job opening and John seized the opportunity. Five years later, he continues to work the ramp. These days, he fuels the planes.
It was at Rocky Mountain Airport that John met his friend and future business partner, Chris Shopp. Chris was partnering with Signature, the holding company for Rocky Mountain Airport, in catering. The two eventually started discussing ideas for a restaurant with an aviation theme. Luckily, Signature approached Chris with the very same idea. Chris, in turn, asked John to join the venture and together, they created E’s Just Good Eats.
The name came from John’s grandma, Elvira, known as “E” by her husband. John remembered going over to his grandparents’ house in north Denver every Sunday. “At the time, they had one of the only color TVs around, so that’s where we all wanted to be,” John says. When his grandma saw the amount of people in her living room, she would just start cooking. A lot of the menu is inspired by Negri family recipes with a little twist from John and Chris. The cuisine may be considered New American, but it definitely has Italian-American influences.
One of the best things about E’s Just Good Eats is the view. In the summertime, you can sit out on the patio and take in the views firsthand. But the views are just as good from the inside with giant picture windows extending from one end of the restaurant to the other. “I see amazing sunrises and sunsets from here,” John says. A panorama of the Rocky Mountains engulfs the restaurant while downtown Denver shines clearly to the southeast. Modern, vintage, and military aircraft alike arrive and depart among the sprawling peaks. Inside, the restaurant is spacious with photographs of nearly every aircraft John has encountered during his tenure.
As with any business, it takes a lot of time and energy to keep things running. John only works the ramp four days a week, but he manages the restaurant seven days a week. He and Chris have proven to be a great team with Chris’ 40+ years of experience in the restaurant business and John’s passion for aviation. Chris handles the culinary and business side while John considers himself the “fix-it” guy who does a little bit of everything. Though business is slower during the winter months, John and Chris don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. In John’s case, being near the thing he truly loves makes the hard work and long hours worthwhile.
Article appeared in Andiamo! – Colorado’s Italian Community Newspaper, January 2017.