It’s 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and Anthony Abate, along with his wife Nancy, and teenage daughter Elizabeth, are busily chopping vegetables and frying up breaded eggplant in the kitchen of their Pastaplus restaurant in Innisfil.
“Today is vegetarian lasagna day, so it’s a bit hectic for us,” said the cheerful restaurateur, as he took a break from his culinary duties to chat with a visiting reporter.
The eight-year-old eatery offers a homey atmosphere, and specializes in made-from-scratch food with a European flare, served up café style. “Pastaplus is an à la minute (prepared on the spot) pasta bar,” he said.
Guests can choose their size and type of pasta, the sauce they want, and if they want to add vegetables, meat or savoury toppings. Salads, naan breads, desserts, various daily features and more are also on offer.
“The whole idea is to give customers exactly what they want,” he explains. “So if they don’t want mushrooms in their pasta, they don’t have to pick them out, because everything is made to order.”
The concept also caters to vegetarians and vegans.
The idea for Pastaplus came from build your own omelette bars, admits the 48-year-old who, prior to opening Pastaplus, worked in food and beverage management at various Canadian venues, including Banff’s Chateau Lake Louise, Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel, Kleinburg’s Doctor’s House, the Toronto Congress Centre, and more.
“I thought, if you can create custom omelettes, why not do the same with my favourite food — pasta?”
With that concept in mind, the couple left their former jobs and opened Pastaplus. “We had been living in the Alcona-area for years, and thought it would be nice to run a family business together, and not have to commute anymore,” he said.
Their two teenage daughters, Madelin and Elizabeth also help out.
Popular menu items include all of the pastas, the meatballs, veal, the rib-eye sandwich, the Mediterranean salad, and the garlic bread. Lasagna days are also very popular, Wednesday is vegetarian lasagna, and Friday is meat lasagna.
“Our food philosophy is fresh and honest,” said Nancy.
Both Nancy and Anthony describe themselves as self-taught cooks. “I grew up in an Italian family and my Nonna taught me how to cook, and I also picked up a lot of things along the way in my food and beverage career,” said Anthony. Nancy, who is from a Macedonian background, says her mother started teaching her culinary skills when she was nine.
While the 32-seat restaurant, and takeout service is only open from Tuesday to Friday, Pastaplus does have a bustling catering business and opens for private parties on weekends. They also do offsite catering for up to 350 people.
Pastaplus is also known for its amazing coffee.
Why the name Pastaplus? “I’m a pasta junkie,” he says with a laugh. “Growing up, every meal we ever had always started with pasta, so I have always had a complete love for the pasta. We added the plus, because we definitely offer more than just pasta — we’re a pasta bar with a twist.”