The Astoria Pizza and Pasta restaurant that’s hosting a soft open next month isn’t just a nod to the longtime Brandon restaurant, which closed 13 years ago after operating in the Wheat City for 35 years.
It’s a full-blown resurrection.
"When you have people who have been longtime customers, they know what they like, and they can tell if something has changed even a little bit," owner Toula Tarr said, adding that every menu item people remember will be available.
This, of course, includes their most popular dish: the Astoria Royal pizza, which was topped with sauce, mushrooms, salami, mozzarella, ham, bacon, pepperoni, green peppers and onions.
Everything will be made using the same family-guarded recipes that were used during its past 35 years of operation, and their staff will be charged with keeping things as nostalgia-inducing as possible by maintaining as great a consistency in food production as possible.
Tarr is the daughter of Astoria Pizza and Pasta’s original owners, Steve and Barb Paras, who have since retired from the restaurant business.
Starting out as a dishwasher at the age of 12, Tarr grew up at the restaurant, moving up to waitressing and even managed the restaurant by the time she hit her late 20s.
When the restaurant closed 13 years ago, she said that she lost her second home, a place where she came to consider longtime customers as family.
Living in Winnipeg at the time, she said that the timing of the restaurant’s closure was not conducive to her uprooting her family and picking up the torch from her parents, so it shuttered.
Then, local entrepreneur Blake Trotter came forward with a new Astoria Pizza and Pasta restaurant at the former Blü Kitchen and Bar building at 1675 Park Ave., which he owns.
His proposal included also incorporating menu items from the old Gulliver’s Grill — a restaurant that operated at the property before Blü Kitchen and Bar came into being — into the space.
While the details behind the Gulliver’s Grill angle are still being hashed out, Tarr’s vision for the Astoria Pizza and Pasta side of things is already clear.
If everything goes to plan, they’ll launch a soft opening on April 1, at which time they’ll begin offering pizza by delivery.
By June, she hopes to see the dining area of the family restaurant open up; "If it’s earlier, even better," she said.
Since first announcing the restaurant to the public earlier this week, Tarr said that she has become inundated by phone calls from people eager to see their favourite restaurant reopen.
She said that it has been enough to reinforce her belief that she’s going in the right direction.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB