Denver Icon, Leo Goto, got his start working for the highly successful Trader Vic’s in the historic old Cosmopolitan Hotel, and in 1970, along with partners Larry Atler and Howard Torgove, he opened Leo’s Place Restaurant.
Since 1976, Leo, along with Atler and Torgove, has owned the fine-dining restaurant (and top-notch banquet facility) Wellshire Inn. Along with its traditional elegance, quality food & service, and beautiful presentation - seeing and talking with Leo when you dine there is an extra special treat.
Leo Goto, who came to this country as a young Japanese immigrant with his family, courageously faced adversity in his early life with the loss of a beloved child at age 5, an older brother/best friend who was killed in Korea – and his first wife who died of cancer.
Now Leo has been married to the fabulous Linda Goto for over 15 years; and after dealing with some challenging health issues of their own, they are optimistically looking forward to a bright and healthy future. Seeing the two philanthropic A-listers looking happy and healthy at charitable events is a joy for all their fans to see.
Involved in a myriad of civic and community projects, Master Storyteller (and joketeller), Leo, remembers so much about Colorado’s early history and loves to share many heartfelt – and amusing - stories with you. Leo says: “As long as we can laugh; we have to share laughter whenever we can.”
Behind that sparkle in “nice guy” Leo’s eyes lies a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom. But, how does he manage to never grow old and look the same year after year? Leo is his own brand. He’s in a league all his own.
Leo Goto is a wonderful, caring human being. His life has been unique; and all of his experiences have made him a memorable figure in the history of Denver.
(Special Note to Leo: Please bring back the “Leo’s Place” chicken-liver omelet…)
Leo, aside from your charitable involvement, what else is going on these days in your "very full" life? My Board chair duties with the Denver Department of Environmental Health, being a Trustee for the University of Denver (for 16 years), the Asian-Pacific Caucus; we are working with the Democratic National Convention, the Dragon Boat Festival – and spending time with the grandchildren!
You are so loved and respected in this town; how can you always stay so "nice"? I’m just trying to reciprocate.
How has Denver changed over the last 30 years? Technology & communication have actually become harder.
What do you miss the most about those "good old days"? The face to-face communication and camaraderie. Doing business then was also about friendship.
How do we get more young people involved in charitable giving and volunteering? By showing them and demonstrating to them the results of medical research - and by teaching them the importance of the human side of charity.
You and Linda are such an adorable couple; what do you think is the secret to a happy marriage? 100% - 100% good attitude and listening.
Are the two of you talking about retirement at all? (If it ever happens) what do you imagine you will want to do with your time? Continue to be part of our community.
What would you still like to learn how to do? Advanced mathematics – and watercolor art.
Besides the Wellshire, what are some of your favorite restaurants in Denver? Definitely Strings – aside from the excellent food, I like to go there because of all the charitable work Noel Cunningham has done in the community; and the Hong Kong Café by DU – the owners have worked very hard for years to make it a great place.
Out of all the celebs and famous people you have met, who impressed you the most? The Dalai Lama. He was just such a calm human being. I was impressed with his philosophies about life and how he is working to achieve as much peace as he can in his lifetime. He’s a very simple caring man. He’s so eloquent in what he shares with other people.
Leo, I know you mentioned what an amazing human being your father was. He left you with a lot of wisdom. What is something you can share with us? My father wisely said: “Being a good parent is learning to say goodbye….”
What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment? My wife and family.
How do you want history to remember you? As a volunteer.
The Gotos’ Contributions to our Community: Leo and Linda Got have been honored numerous times by the Denver community for their tireless commitment and work on behalf of many worthwhile causes. It would be difficult to mention all of their sincere and dedicated involvement in this article.
This is what I remember about Leo. I worked for him as a hostess at Wellshire Inn. The hostesses at the restaurant would check customers' coats, and customers would give us tips which totaled hundreds of dollars each night. Leo Goto did not let us keep those tips and he kept marked bills in the tip box so that he could make sure that the hostesses were not stealing tip money. There were so many nice customers that gave us generous tips not knowing that the money was really going to a selfish Leo Goto.