“RidgeGate Up Close” is our series of interviews with people who make RidgeGate a more vibrant place. Read the unexpected stories of residents, workers and local leaders who live and work here. Know someone who has a unique perspective on life in RidgeGate? Contact us at email@example.com.
This month: The Zarrella Family
Anthony Zarrella relocated to RidgeGate from Washington DC after landing a job in Emergency Management for a local county in Colorado. Soon, Anthony’s wife, Rebecca, a NICU nurse, and 11-year-old son, Dominic (“Dom”), took a leap of faith and moved across the country to join him. We spoke with this tight-knit family of three about their love of ethnic food, pie making using local berries, and the new adventures and freedoms they have found in RidgeGate.
How did the Zarrella family end up migrating from Washington DC to RidgeGate?
Anthony: I work in Emergency Management. We were living in DC, and I came out here for an in-person job interview. I couldn’t get a rental car, so I took the light rail out to Lone Tree for my interview. I had heard this was a nice place to explore, and I ended up doing a hike on the bluffs. I kept thinking, “this would be such a great place to live.” We ended up getting our apartment before Rebecca or Dom even set foot in Colorado.
Rebecca: A lot of people thought I was crazy for moving here sight unseen, but the way Anthony described the area made it sound so perfect.
Was there anything about RidgeGate that surprised you?
Rebecca: Dom has a lot of energy, so I force him outside every day. One welcome surprise was that he has gotten a lot more personal freedom and responsibility here because we feel so safe. He’s able to walk to see friends and I never worry about him.
Dom: We skateboard in the parking lots at Prairie Sky Park, or we rock climb in Belvedere Park. Oh, and the Lone Tree Rec Center has an epic waterslide!
Rebecca: I actually put Dom in a lot of day camps at the Rec Center over the summer or when he has had days off from school. Those have really saved me because it’s so convenient.
Your family was really used to walking places in DC. Was there a big adjustment when you moved to RidgeGate?
Rebecca: A little, but now we walk to the library, Target, Snooze, Monk & Mongoose or Costa Vida several times a week. I definitely feel like I still have that element of being able to walk to things I like.
Anthony: We were rarely around nature or open space in DC, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we ended up in RidgeGate instead of Denver. We love the bluffs. And RidgeGate is also a great jumping off point for so many outdoor activities…mountain biking, dirt biking, off roading…
We weren’t really “outdoorsy” people until moving to RidgeGate, but when we got here…we just went all in.
Your family has really taken advantage of the free events in the area. What were some of your favorites?
Rebecca: We did two different RidgeGate Summer Concerts which were super fun. We did the big 4th of July extravaganza. We’ve also done several of the guided hikes like the Full Moon Hike, the Summer Solstice Hike and the hike where they teach you about the indigenous use of the land. We learned all about what people could eat or use for weaving or medicine…
Dom: …Since we’re talking about edible plants…
Anthony: …Uh oh, where is this going…
Dom: …So there is this bush we found in RidgeGate—it’s called a Service Berry bush. We picked the berries and made a pie out of them that was really good!
Rebecca: That’s true. It’s a plant that is used decoratively in a lot of suburbs, but the berries are actually delicious. Dom loves food – all types of food except “American food.”
Anthony: He loves reading about different kinds of food too.
Dom: Yeah, I’m reading The Travel Book right now. It teaches you about what other cultures like to eat. It’s so cool.
Also, I have a turtle named “Borscht” – like the pink Russian soup made from beets.
Wow, Dom. You sound like you’re a true “foodie” in the making. Have you found places here where you can try different foods?
Dom: Yes! Ethiopian food, boba tea, Indian food, sushi…oh, I love Sushi Rama by our apartment! They have this cool conveyor belt that goes all the way around the restaurant. You can just look at the sushi and say, “oh, that looks good, I’m going to try that” and then grab it as it goes by.
I have to give an honorable mention to their avocado roll. You can never go wrong with a simple avocado roll.
So, what is the next adventure for the Zarrella family?
Anthony: You know, one of our goals is to take the light rail to more places…like Downtown Denver. Coming from DC, we were so used to taking the subway everywhere. That will be next for us!