Pelino’s Pasta Plans Summer Opening for First Restaurant
While the pandemic has found some businesses embracing the pop-up, for Pelino’s Pasta it has meant making things permanent.
Husband and wife team Vinny and Christina Pelino will take their traveling, pop-up concept Pelino’s Pasta and make things stationary with their first brick-and-mortar restaurant at 245 King Ave. It will occupy the former home of Yellow Brick Pizza.
Vinny grew up in Columbus as part of a large, Italian family. Family gatherings were food-focused and featured homemade sausage, pasta and wine, and great-grandma’s bread, which she made nearly every day of her life. He loved the culture and the food.
Vinny’s career would take him through many facets of the service industry, all the way up to general manager of an Italian restaurant. It made him realize it was time to strike out and start his own thing.
The couple took the leap in May 2019, quitting their jobs to pursue pasta-making dreams. The ultimate goal was a restaurant, but Vinny says they first wanted to travel around and test their food, beginning with Italian Festivals in Ohio (including the Columbus Italian Festival). It would also give them time to build their savings for self-funding the restaurant.
Festivals are only a thing for so many months in Ohio, so when colder temperatures hit, the couple headed down to the Florida festival circuit.
“Every time we did it, we would do different menu items, kind of roll through the process and refine ourselves,” Vinny says.
Then the pandemic hit.
With a business model that relied on events that no longer existed, the couple headed out west and started working on organic farms. They realized it was time to pivot Pelino’s Pasta.
The Pelinos knew that if they wanted to continue to operate, a restaurant was the best way to move forward. They’d been working on restaurant equipment knowing that was the direction they wanted to head and to pivot to a more mobile option, like a food truck, would have meant too many changes to the way things were done.
The couple made their way back to Columbus and plans for Pelino’s Pasta were put in motion.
The restaurant will be a full-service, sit-down dinner experience, open five nights a week.
As the name indicates, pasta will be the main attraction, with a focus on approachable, traditional Italian dishes.
“There is a pretty significant difference between Italian cuisine and Italian-American cuisine and we’re Italian,” Vinny says. (Not that he didn’t love the more Italian-American dishes he grew up with.)
Pelino’s Pasta will serve up a variety of authentic Italian that Vinny says is not frequently seen in the area. Ingredients will be minimal, focusing on the traditional notion of using a limited number of high-quality products, and be local, organic or imported directly from Italy.
Time spent traveling and training around Europe will influence the Pelinos techniques, Vinny as the executive chef and pasta maker, and Christina as pastry chef.
A crown jewel of the pasta menu will be a traditional Cacio e Pepe, tossed in a massive wheel of pecorino romano. Gemelli con crema di ‘Nduja is a favorite of Christina’s. The rich, smoky dish features ‘Nduja, a spicy spreadable sausage, paired with a creamy sauce to balance the spiciness. Zucchini and saffron are the stars in Zucchini e Zafferano, which will see some seasonal variations in colder months with squash or pumpkin.
Pasta won’t be the only thing made fresh in-house. Pelino’s Pasta will make its own bread, focaccia, using fresh yeast giving it a more robust flavor. Vinny says they’re interested in making some of their own cheeses as well.
Seasonality and highlighting regional pastas and sauces will also be at the heart of the menu, which will be rounded out with bruschettas, salads and desserts.
Christina will shine in the desserts department, drawing influence from her African-American, Irish and French heritage. While most diners are familiar with Italian sweets like cannoli, Pelino’s Pasta’s menu will highlight some lesser-known Italian specialties.
Until the restaurant opens, likely in early July, Pelino’s Pasta will be doing a weekly pop-up on Monday nights through May 31 at Land-Grant Brewing in Franklinton, 424 W. Town St. Vinny says they’ll look for more pop-up opportunities, and would love to do some wine dinners at other bars and restaurants to keep spreading the word.
Wine dinners are something the Pelinos hope to continue once their restaurant opens, though it might not be right away. They’re waiting on their liquor permit, but won’t let it stand in the way of opening, letting the food stand for itself.