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Restaurant Happenings  March 2003

Spring into Pasta Jay’s!
by Annabelle Numaguchi

A tell-tale sign that spring is upon us in Moab is the arrival of the Half Marathon in March, and no one gets more ready and excited to greet the runners than Pasta Jay’s. Locals who have witnessed at least one spring know that during this event getting a table at the Italian restaurant is harder than slick rock.

Hungry runners eager to carbo-load and replenish on race weekend overflow the dining room and wraparound patio until the line out the door wraps around the corner. Although pasta is a perfect carbohydrate to sustain long-distance racers, the restaurant offers several reasons why it packs in the customers on event weekends in Moab. The prices are reasonable, the variety of dishes ranges widely, the food is wholesome and the ambiance is cozy.

The decor is meant to evoke preconceived expectations of an Italian restaurant with red and white checkered tablecloths and soft votive lighting. The color scheme also reflects the Italian flag with red, white and green dominating indoors and out. Despite its spaciousness, the restaurant exudes the cozy atmosphere of a family-owned neighborhood joint.

A hand-painted mural of a Tuscan landscape, stenciled vines framing the windows and an open alcove connecting the kitchen with the dining room create an ambiance in which a diner can wrap a napkin around his neck, kiss his fingers and shout out “buonissimo!” This explains why the restaurant fills up quickly, creating a lively hustle and bustle, also reminiscent of Pasta Jay’s heritage.

The owner and restaurant’s namesake, Jay Elowsky, sports a very non-Italian name which belies his strong ties to his maternal lineage. An interesting and brief family history is recounted at the end of the menu. After apprenticing for a total of seven years with his Uncle Sonny, a restaurateur in California, Jay moved to Boulder, Colorado and opened his own place, the original Pasta Jay’s, in September of 1988.

He featured the family recipes that Sonny had learned from his own mother, “Mama Genovese,” whose grandmother had cooked for the first King of the United Countries of Italy. As the recipes have endured, Jay can rightly claim that his restaurants create, “food fit for a king.“ Incidentally, Jay named the most popular dish on his menu, the Stuffed Chicken Genovese, whose stuffing includes Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese and mushrooms, after his revered grandmother who faithfully preserved these treasured recipes from one generation to the next.

Four years of success in Boulder inspired Jay to open a second restaurant here in Moab in May of 1992. One of the first employees he hired was Kelly Wiler, a design major born and raised in Moab. Kelly waited tables for two years until she became the manager. She has successfully run the year round restaurant that features indoor and outdoor dining since 1996, and she doesn‘t appear to regret the switch in careers.

She’s youthful and energetic, exuding a personal pride in her responsibilities as she efficiently straightens tables and cheerfully greets and serves an early customer. She displays eager anticipation in this summer’s arrival of new chairs and curtains for the dining room as if it were furniture for her own home. Kelly also takes satisfaction in being able to say that everything but the deserts is made daily from scratch in the restaurant. Even the dried pasta is made especially for Pasta Jay’s by his pasta store in Boulder. This emphasis on freshness supports the restaurant’s motto, “A restaurant you can call home!”

This may explain why Pasta Jay’s enjoys so many repeat customers. Kelly has noticed that Europeans exhibit a particular tendency to eat several meals in a row at Pasta Jay’s, coming back for lunch and dinner. Events, such as the Classic Car Show and the Jeep Safari, draw many diners to return within the same weekend. And, of course, Pasta Jay’s is always a big hit with the runners of the Half Marathon in March. And the appreciation seems mutual as Kelly smiles at the thought of the approaching season and says, “We love feeding the runners! We’re looking forward to Spring.”

Pasta Jay’s is located on 4 South Main Street, the southwest corner of Main and Center, and can be reached at (435) 259-2900. No reservations accepted, but take out is available. Summer hours (beginning March 11) are 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Recipe of the Month

Garlic Bread

Baguette of French bread
Parmesan Cheese
Dried sweet basil
Dried onion flakes
Garlic butter (made of fresh garlic, canola oil and margarine)

Slice open french bread lengthwise. Swipe the bread with garlic butter. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients to taste. Toast the bread until brown.


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