RIDGWAY – “I’m looking forward to giving people a new choice for food, service and atmosphere,” says Nicholas Pasquariello, chef at Ridgway’s newest restaurant, River’s End Bar & Grill. Located at 257 Sherman St., River’s End replaces the former Dog House Bistro and opens its doors for the first time this weekend for a special Easter Sunday brunch buffet.
With a fancier restaurant downstairs and a more casual, bar and grill upstairs, River’s End offers something for everyone. The bar and grill will maintain a sports bar atmosphere with grill-type food, while the downstairs will cater to the higher end diner, with steaks, fish, pasta and more elaborate offerings. An outdoor patio will provide al fresco dining during the summer months, and occasional bands will provide entertainment. A catering service is also planned.
The restaurant is a joint venture between Ridgway real estate broker Judi Snelling and her son, Pasquariello, who grew up in Ridgway. Pasquariello, 23, a John & Wales University culinary school graduate, has been involved in the culinary field since he was 16. He transferred from Ridgway High School to Olathe High School from 2002 to 2004 in order to take advantage of culinary classes offered to 11th and 12th graders through the Colorado Pro Start Program in collaboration with the Colorado Restaurant Association. From there he ended up in Denver where, thanks to a grant from the same program, he was able to attend John & Wales University.
After graduating in 2007, Pasquariello returned to Ridgway and began working as Executive Chef Deli Manager at The Market at Mountain Village. But his restaurant experience is broad, including executive chef positions at Plush Bar & Lounge in Denver and Ridgway’s Chipeta Sun Lodge, and cooking positions at Denver’s Double Tree Hotel and Ouray’s Outlaw restaurant.
Snelling refers to her son as a “hometown boy with hometown experience. Colorado educated and now a hometown chef.”
Perhaps Pasquariello caught a bit of the restaurant bug from his mom, who opened Ridgway’s White Horse Saloon in 1996 and then sold it to two employees four years later. “I used to play pool there on Sundays while my mom cleaned,” says Pasquariello, pointing out that the same pool table now sits in the River’s End bar. Explaining that having his own restaurant is not so much a dream come true as an opportunity that presented itself, Pasquariello says, “I’ve just always loved food and I always wanted to be involved in the restaurant business.” He says his choice to return to Ridgway had everything to do with his love for the mountains, which he found less accessible in Denver. “The more I was in Denver, the more I missed the mountains. I just love being outdoors.”
One significant feature of River’s End is its outdoor patio, which adjoins Rollans Park, next to the Uncompahgre River. Pasquariello is making a special effort to keep the area open by making sure his delivery drivers and patrons do not park in the Rollans Park parking area, which is specifically reserved for park visitors and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Besides, “I want to be able to see the river,” he says.
Pasquariello and Snelling have done some significant renovations to the restaurant space, from replacing the carpet in the downstairs dining room to covering the stark white walls with new paint in warm shades of brown. The restaurant’s centerpiece upstairs bar – an original “old western bar from Colorado,” according to Pasquariello – had a facelift of its own. It has been “completely re-lighted, refinished, and restored,” he says, and now gleams with an uplifting, honey-colored finish. Taps were also moved back, away from the front of the bar to create more room for patrons.
As far as the menu, upstairs Pasquariello will serve typical grill fare – hot wings ($8.95), French fries ($4.95), chicken strips ($6.95) – as well as hamburgers ($8.95-$9.95) and “more high-end sandwiches,” such as a French Dip and salmon or pork poor boys ($8.95-$11.95). There is also a soup and salad bar available daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering one-time-through or all-you-can-eat options ($2.95-$9.95), well as a kids’ menu and several dessert selections.
The downstairs space will be reserved for formal dining, complete with white linens and seasonal specials. Among the entrée choices are a cedar-smoked king salmon served with lemon beurre blanc ($16.95), a 10-oz. grilled Angus filet wrapped in peppered bacon ($26.95), and a 12-oz. Angus NY strip topped with grilled shrimp and bourbon demi-glaze ($26.95). A selection of appetizers and pasta dishes round out the menu, along with slow-cooked prime rib and baby back ribs.
Pasquariello compares the River’s End fine dining experience to Ouray’s Bon Ton and Outlaw restaurants, saying his offerings run around $2 to $3 less and include “all foods I know that sell well in this community.” As far as specials go, those will be determined by “my mood and my stomach,” he says, but will often include a steak offering, which he intends to make available to upstairs bar patrons, as well.
This weekend kicks off the restaurant’s Sunday brunch buffet, an all-inclusive meal served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Their special Easter Sunday buffet includes fresh fruit, eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, prime rib, Easter ham, grilled chicken breast, rice, potatoes, veggies, assorted breads and desserts, coffee, tea, juice and a complimentary mimosa or Bloody Mary. Adults eat for $19.95; seniors, $16.95; and children 12 and under, $11.95. Reservations are not required and the patio will be open, weather permitting.
“We want everyone to be comfortable, happy and just enjoy being here,” says Pasquariello.
As for her part, Snelling plans to work as the restaurant’s general manager, “with an emphasis on the bar,” she says. With real estate down, “I am returning temporarily to the food and beverage industry,” and plans to do both until the real estate market picks back up.
“It’s Nick’s restaurant,” she emphasizes.
River’s End plans a Grand Opening week at its upstairs bar and grill, Monday, April 13-Saturday, April 18. Following the Easter Sunday soft opening of the downstairs restaurant, a grand opening is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28. The bar and grill will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. The restaurant will be open for fine dining, Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, 5-9 p.m. For more information, call 626-2252.