The local owners of a new Italian restaurant going into the old Paterno’s location at Appalachian Power Park announced Wednesday that their new restaurant will offer three different dining concepts with lots of fresh pastas, sandwiches, soup, pastries and bread, along with a few beloved dishes from the restaurant it is replacing.
During a walkthrough of the space with Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin Wednesday afternoon, Mark and Libby Chatfield — who also own Charleston Bread Company on Capitol Street — said their new place will be a full-service restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner offering three different “styles” of dining.
Ristorante Abruzzi will feature a takeout window connecting the restaurant to the building’s hallway offering grab-and-go meals, along with separate sit-down areas inside the dining room catering to fast-casual and more relaxed-dining guests.
A full bar and the existing patio overlooking the baseball field will also be part of the restaurant’s amenities.
“In the mornings, we’ll serve breakfast sandwiches, pastries and coffee,” Libby Chatfield said, adding that the restaurant’s food will be a perfect collaboration with the products they’re already making at Charleston Bread.”
“Libby has the best recipe for brioche with ginger that makes a wonderful French toast, and we plan to use some of the starters from our breads to make sourdough pancakes that are delicious as well,” Mark Chatfield added.
Lunch service is expected to be built around a variety of house-made soups, which you’ll be able to order with your own personal bread to go with them.
“I’m really into personal breads right now,” Mark Chatfield said, “and this lunch concept is based on a great restaurant I visited in Oregon called The Soup Kitchen. I think it would be very popular here.”
Lunch options will also include fresh deli sandwiches that the Chatfields are hoping workers in the area, like at CAMC General down the street, could pick up at their to-go window for a quick bite when pressed for time.
“We’re not going to be a deli,” Mark Chatfield said, “but we’ll have some really good deli sandwiches.”
He said the dinner menu will feature an Italian-American theme, with lots of fresh pastas, pizzas and other Italian specialties, including a few dishes folks might recognize from recently closed Paterno’s at the Park.
“I still need to talk to Nikki [Paterno Kurten, who was managing partner at Paterno’s] but we’d like to offer a few of their favorite dishes to pay tribute to the great restaurant that was here before us,” said Chatfield. “Their gnocchi with sausage and cream sauce was just fantastic and there are others we’d like to offer, as well.”
Libby Chatfield added that Mark has made homemade pizza every Friday night since the couple first met, so she’s excited the public will get to taste something she’s enjoyed for so long.
“Yeah, I’m going to get a really good pizza oven,” Mark Chatfield said. “I make a nice sausage and onion pizza and I’ve had a really good bleu cheese pizza in Italy that’s just bleu cheese and tomato sauce. We’ll be making all of our own sauces.”
He said he also hopes to invest in a commercial-grade pasta maker that can churn out 50 pounds of pasta per hour, along with unique pasta cookware he’s seen in Italy that allows chefs to cook individual servings of pasta fresh to order instead of having to cook a big batch and let it set until it’s needed.
“That’s how they do it in Italy and we want to celebrate our Italian heritage as much as possible in the food we offer,” he said. ”In Italy, they also bring each person at the table their food as soon as it’s ready, instead of waiting to serve everyone at once, since pasta is best eaten right away. I could try something like that here, but I’m afraid the people of West Virginia may revolt on me.”
And he definitely wants to support West Virginia.
“We’re committed to supporting the local economy and using local ingredients as much as possible, including J.Q. Dickinson salt,” he said. “I’m also hoping I can get Joe and Robin [Harmon] from The Fish Market to let me buy some of their good smoked salmon to use.”
Still, being as authentically Italian as possible is important to Chatfield, so much so that restaurant’s name was inspired by that goal.
“There’s a region in central Italy called Abruzzi and it’s widely known to have the best food in all of the country,” he said.
Chatfield said that seemed a fitting name for the quality of food they hope to offer here — and his family has ties there, too.
“We visited Abruzzi and saw the house where my family grew up and the graves where my grandparents were buried,” he said. “It’s a special place for us.”
There’s even a baseball connection, making the new restaurant’s location at Power Park even more fitting.
“My grandfather was known as a baseballist there,” Chatfield said, referring to the official term used to describe the occupation of baseball players in Italy at the time.
Speaking of baseball, the new owners hope their opening day will come right before the West Virginia Power begins play this spring.
As far as renovations go, the couple said they plan to do as little as possible since “the space is so beautiful” already.
“But we will be bringing in some new kitchen equipment. I think we know where we can get our hands on some pretty nice bread and pasta machines,” Chatfield said with a laugh, referencing their Charleston Bread business.
The couple said other plans under consideration include separating the bar from the dining area; utilizing an additional second room of space across the hall; offering concessions at baseball games; feeding the team when it’s in town; and, maybe on down the line, brunch.
“There’s a lot to think about and a lot of unknowns right now,” Libby Chatfield said. “We’ll know a lot more over the coming weeks.”
Among those uncertainties is the challenge they might face dealing with the homeless and those affected by substance abuse from nearby facilities hanging around and damaging the building’s restrooms, which Paterno’s owners cited as one of the reasons for closing up shop.
“We’re aware there’s a problem, yes, but we feel like we have strategies in place to help address them,” Mark Chatfield said. He said he believes having the restaurant open from morning until night will help by creating more traffic in the building throughout the day, which would deter people from hanging out there.
“I would even say that we’re not really worried,” Libby Chatfield said. “The issues facing Charleston are problems in almost every city and state across the country, and I think it’s all of our responsibilities to pitch in to find solutions to them. Whatever comes our way, we will address it. Doing nothing is not an option.”