After 17 years in Eagle, Pastatively will close its doors
The owners of the popular family restaurant serving up ‘Italian soul food’ are ending their run June 25
In a tourism-driven community like Eagle County, many find themselves craving authenticity, community, and maybe even a little bit of crudity or unpolished banter.
It was these characteristics that drew people to Pastatively, Eagle’s favorite Italian restaurant, for the past 17 years. That run of nearly two decades will come to an end after June 25 with the restaurant’s two co-owners deciding the time was right this summer to walk away as their lease came to an end.
“The one thing that everything needs in life to be successful, whether it be a business or a personal endeavor, you’ve got to have a personality,” said co-owner Roberto Cammarota. “The personality of Pastatively is the community because it’s the community that made Pastatively what it is.”
Pastatively is quintessential East Coast-style Italian, and to Cammarota, a Bostonian and second-generation American of Italian descent, this means that everyone is family.
“My father, my uncles and everybody, they were all first-generation,” Cammarota said. “So, it was traditional Sunday dinner and there would be nine grandkids at one table, the parents would be at the other table … and nobody talked, everybody yelled. It’s just the way it was. No one was mad but, you know, that was la famiglia. That was the family.”
“Coming in here, it was kind of like the same thing as when I was a kid,” he added. “I go out into the dining room; I yell at people. I talk to people. It’s good, I’ll miss that interaction.”
He said he knew he and co-owner Dave Foster had succeeded in creating a loving environment that reflected the community when he began to hear from customers who had endured great hardship or tragedy and the first place they came when they were finally able to leave the house again was Pastatively.
“That means a lot to me, means more than money, fame, glory or anything, to know that this was a place where they felt like home,” he said.
When Foster called Cammarota with the idea of opening a restaurant in Eagle in 2004, Cammarota said he was set to move to Antarctica.
Instead, he came to Eagle County to indulge Foster on his “crazy idea” to bring something new to the community. This from the man who was going to voluntarily move to a barren, icy tundra.
“And that’s how it all started, been here ever since,” Cammarota said. “Making friends, meeting people, feeding people, putting red stuff on top of white stuff.”
The two had worked together before at a previous restaurant run by Cammarota called Roberto’s and Foster said Cammarota used this poetic way of describing Italian cuisine – putting red stuff on top of white stuff – whenever things got too serious in the kitchen.
When they started back in 2004, Foster was more familiar with the community than Cammarota and he said he just knew that people would go nuts for an authentic Italian place that felt like home. And he was right.
“[Cammarota] and [Foster] know what they are doing and have carved out a cult following/fine dining niche in the Eagle River Valley through quality food and genuine hospitality with nothing more than word of mouth as their advertisement,” Edwards resident Patrick Caron said in a written statement Wednesday.
One of Pastatively’s head chefs, Gregg Salaz, described Foster and Cammarota as “just two characters,” with Cammarota often being perceived as the “crazy Italian guy” for his pension for cracking jokes and spontaneously hollering across the dining room.
The pair gave Salaz his first job as a busboy when he was just 16 years old. Now, nine years later, Salaz is 25 and has left his mark on the place in a way that is emblematic of the community investment and “everyone’s family” attitude the restaurant was built on.
“This is more of a family to me than a job,” Salaz said. “As the years progressed, [Cammarota] taught me about business, they’ve taught me about hard work and everything and just seeing how they run their restaurant every day, I mean, they’re two of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.”
After serving the community for 17 years, Cammarota began to think about retiring and Foster about his next adventure, they said. With their lease coming to an end, and, frankly, after struggling to find employees to staff the place after the pandemic, Foster said it became clear that it was time to go in a new direction.
“This year is going to be one of the busiest summers ever and people aren’t going to be able to do the business they want because there’s no help,” Foster said. “They have to do less.”
Cammarota said he had hoped that someone might want to carry on the Pastatively name and retain its menu but, as he so delicately put it, “s— happens.”
Instead, they are glad to turn the space over to EagleVail’s Ti Amo. Owner Scott Yenerich said that, while the building will no longer bear the Pastatively name, he is glad for the opportunity to carry on the tradition of quality Italian fare.
“I’ve wanted to move down here for years but I didn’t want to compete against friends,” Yenerich said. “At this point, the opportunity arose, and we are happy to fill the space and fill that void.”
Neither of the two expressed regrets about leaving after so many years in their cozy restaurant – nostalgia, sure, and maybe even a twinge of sadness, but mainly gratitude, they said.
“I feel enriched,” Cammarota said. “Life is just a series of vignettes. That’s all you have in life is memories — good memories, bad memories. So, you get rid of the bad memories, you keep the good memories, you keep all the things that enrich your life, make you feel good.”
“And Pastatively, that’s it,” he said. “Met a lot of nice people, they shared their lives with me, I shared my life with them.”
The stories of the two men and the institution they built are just as much a part of the Pastatively space as the bricks and mortar that uphold its walls.
A foil to the sleek, modern minimalism that dominates the restaurant industry aesthetic today, every bit of space on Pastatively’s walls is occupied by photographs, knickknacks and mementos.
The result, as intended, is a warm, homey space — accessible. Upon entering, one might find oneself reflexively slinging their bag on the floor after a long day of work and asking, “what’s for dinner?”
Cammarota loves photos and many the pictures that don the walls were taken by him on various adventures around the country and the world. But the décor that he is seemingly most proud of are the paper place mats that local children have drawn pictures on over the years.
Drawings of food, of fish, of friends holding hands — they line the walls in the entry way and into the back hallway of the restaurant.
“This one — this one is from Faith, yeah Faith drew that,” Cammarota said excitedly, pointing them out, name by name.
Perhaps the second-most notable part of Pastatively’s unique ambiance is the plants.
“I brought the outside inside … makes people feel nice,” Cammarota said.
In addition to the “jungle” of plants on the front patio, thick green vines weave their way across the ceiling of the space, all of which started with two “mother plants” that Cammarota bought when he first came to the mountains, he said.
When asked, Cammarota said the plants will stay with the building.
“If they keep them, they keep them. If they don’t, they don’t,” he said.
Yenerich said they plan to keep some of the plants. As a friend of Cammarota and Foster, he said he does not want to make too many changes to the space — at least, not right away.
“We’re going to make some changes, but we’re going to try to keep the uniqueness of the restaurant the way it was,” he said.
The answer to the earlier question – ‘what’s for dinner?’ — is one that of course must be discussed.
In addition to classic Italian fare, Pastatively takes great pride in their specials and innovative fusion dishes, Cammarota said.
Foster, who has worked on many a fishing boat, loves to get creative with new seafood dishes, such as fish cakes with clam sauce.
Under Cammarota’s tutelage, Salaz perfected a green chili sauce that is often paired with Italian favorites for a mouthwatering combination.
The cumulative effect is something that Cammarota called “Italian soul food,” kind of like a warm hug from your grandmother in food form.
Foster and Cammarota will continue to sell the Pastatively classic marinara sauce that graces the shelves at local farmers markets and City Market locations, they said. Their goal is to make and jar 120 cases before they leave their beloved space at the end of June.
They will serve their last family dinner on Saturday, June 25.
“I’m just really grateful for all of our past and present employees that helped us get to where we are at and also, hands down, all of our patrons over the years,” Foster said. “They helped make Pastatively what it is.”
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com