It was a photo in a magazine of a chef in his whites that inspired Fabio Flagiello to pursue a culinary career. "I was nine years old and leafing through a magazine and saw a chef in his jacket and hat, so I told my mom that I wanted too cook, and I never changed my mind," says Flagiello, who will open PastaVino today in the former Juanita's space in Boulder at 1043 Pearl Street.
Flagiello, who was born in Trieste, Italy and graduated from culinary school when he was just sixteen, spent several years doing time in prestigious kitchens in Italy and France before moving to the States, first to Boston, then to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and finally, Boulder. In LA, where Flagiello was the exec chef of a restaurant called Chianti, he cooked for some of the most visible celebrities in the world, including Sting (Flagiello was the singer's private chef), Madonna, Danny DeVito and Marlon Brando, whose agent specifically asked Flagiello to cook for Brando's birthday party. And if that weren't enough star power, the chef also assumed the responsibility of training Tony Shalhoub for the actor's chef role in Big Night, one of the best food films of the past fifty years.
But for all of his accolades and LA contacts, Flagiello admits that Los Angeles got the best of him. "I hated the traffic in LA, and the city was becoming a revolving door. I was sick and tired of Hollywood and its superficiality, and once you've cooked for Marlon Brando, well, that's kind of the pinnacle," he admits.
He left LA for a sojourn through several San Francisco kitchens, eventually moving to Boulder in 2009 to take the exec chef gig at Bacaro, a taverna also on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. And while Flagiello still consults on the menu at Bacaro, it's his new restaurant, PastaVino, that's his object of affection. "It's a simple, organic Italian restaurant that's not complicated or fancy," he says. "What we're trying to do here is focus on quality, execution and product," he adds, noting, too, that his wine list -- a selection of 300 bottlings -- will offer oenophiles the chance to sip from several organic or bio-dynamic wines.
He's also giving guests the opportunity to taste individual components of a dish, or, as he calls them, the "core ingredients," which is to say that the balsamic vinegars and olives oils -- all from Italy -- that he uses in his salads, for example, will be served on the side so that "guests can taste them in their pure form," explains Flagiello. In addition, his pastas are all made in-house, as are his breads, and the Mugnaini wood-burning oven, fueled by oak, and framed by a multi-hued mosaic of tile, will impart the flame that chars his pizzas and bakes his mussels.
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His menu also includes different pastas for each day of the week, along with numerous salads and soups, anitpasti and rustic Italian dishes like pan-roasted veal scaloppine wrapped with prosciutto and sage; braised veal leg; cioppino; and East Coast Dover sole with a shrimp and caper ragout and saffron risotto. "The recipes, while contemporary, aren't elaborate -- and there are very few ingredients in each dish -- but they're recipes that are beautifully executed and done the way they're supposed to be done," insists Flagiello.
And the space, which ballyhoos exposed weathered red brick, a chef's counter constructed from the salvaged oak bar at Juanita's, shimmery moody-blue banquettes, a community table, a varnished and lacquered fifteen-foot white oak bar kaleidoscopic with acrylic resins, white oak tables and dark chocolate wenge wood chairs with chrome legs, is an ideal balance of modern nuances and unassuming restraint. "We're not trying to be pretentious, fancy or crazy. We're trying to be a conscious of what people in Boulder want in terms of price, atmosphere and food and just make this a fun place for great Italian cuisine and wine," says Flagiello, adding that nothing on the menu is more than $18. "I'm trying to bring Italy, as it is now, to Boulder, and I think we've succeeded."
PastaVino is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week -- and features a late-night menu Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more info, call 303-955-8791.