Restaurants rise from the ashes

Hadley Vandiver | Boulder Weekly

Boulder was voted “foodiest town in America” by Bon Appétit in 2010, so it is hardly a surprise that the local food business is competitive. Only the toughest survive.


Recently, a couple of new additions have decided to brave the fierce competition, and they’re doing it from the gravesites of some of Boulder’s recently deceased restaurants. In April, the StarLite Diner took up residence in the building that once housed Ruby’s Diner at Twenty Ninth Street. PastaVino, which held its grand opening on May 5, fills the space (and big shoes) left behind by Juanita’s on Pearl Street. And later this month, H Burger and T/ACO urban taqueria are slated to open their doors in the former homes of The Pinyon and BOP Pizzeria, respectively.

Fabio Flagiello, owner and executive chef of PastaVino, says he is not worried that another restaurant couldn’t survive in the same space.

“I’m very confident in what we’re doing, in our concept and the food we’re serving, and I’m not concerned,” Flagiello says. “It’s up to me, it’s up to us to make it work, and if we do a good job, there will not be any problems.”

PastaVino’s concept focuses on serving simple, traditional Italian dishes made with organic, fresh ingredients. Flagiello researches every product that comes in, he says, to ensure the best quality.

Sara Wells, marketing and graphic design director at the StarLite Diner, says that the restaurant’s success comes from its niche market.

“There aren’t many diners in Boulder,” Wells says. “And when you walk in here, you really feel like you’ve been transported to the ’50s, which is a blast. The jukebox is always running over the speakers, playing the classic oldies, and we make a lot of milkshakes.”

Though previous restaurants have perished in the locations of StarLite and PastaVino, the newcomers say their locations are actually an advantage.

“We love being on this nice little section of Pearl Street,” Flagiello says. “I think it’s one of the best locations in Boulder, because people come in while they’re just walking around. Our execution is what sets us apart, and people recognize that we don’t compromise on quality by making simple food, so they want to keep coming in.”

StarLite is a little farther from the beaten path, but it benefits from being next to Century Boulder Theatre.

“I think things were different for Ruby’s, because they were here before the movie theatre really got started,” Wells says. “But now the movie theatre brings in great business for us. People come before or after their movie, and we stay open late on the weekends to catch that late-night crowd.”

Both PastaVino and StarLite have been open for a couple of weeks now, and business flow has been steady.

“We’re starting to see some people who are coming back, becoming ‘regulars,’” Wells says. “It’s very exciting.”

And what makes these restaurateurs confident that their restaurants will survive where others didn’t? Experience.

Flagiello has owned Italian restaurants up and down the coast of California.

Chris Dailey, owner of StarLite, currently owns Street Legal Pizza and Street Legal Burgers in Broomfield. The company that plans to open H Burger and the T/ACO urban taqueria already has two successful restaurants in Denver.

“We definitely considered the fact that one restaurant had already closed there,” Wells said. “But we have people with experience and a great concept. I’m very confident that we’ll stay open for a long time.”

While opening so close to summer might help these new restaurants stay afloat, it will not all be smooth sailing.

“It’s a long process, with a restaurant,” Flagiello says. “You can’t just stay on top for a couple of weeks, you have to stay on top forever. Success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time.”

Whether or not these fledgling restaurants will stick it out remains to be seen, but if their attitudes are any indication, they show great promise, even in the cutthroat Boulder dining scene.