When the pandemic descended on the valley in mid-March, Scott Yenerich made a couple of critical decisions. Unlike marquee restaurants like Sweet Basil that closed altogether, Yenerich, proprietor of Ristorante Ti Amo since 1995, soldiered on, offering signature dishes like Petti di Pollo alle Fragole (Chicken breast sautéed with strawberries, red onions, and red pepper flakes in a brandy cream sauce over angel hair pasta) to regulars who drove to Eagle-Vail for curbside pickup or ordered takeout. He also began planning for the day when restaurants would be allowed to re-open their dining rooms, anticipating that occupancy would be reduced, and that keeping patrons safe from airborne pathogens would be paramount. In addition to ordering three high-end air purifiers with hospital-grade HEPA filters (one for each dining room), Yenerich commissioned a relative of a member of his kitchen staff (Luis Uribe, a Gypsum woodworker) to build wood and glass partitions on rollers that could be easily moved to reconfigure each dining space as needed, segregating patrons in cozy pods that complied with social distancing mandates, and not just blended in with, but complemented the restaurant's rustic-yet-elegant decor.
"They look like they're part of the place," says Yenerich.
When Eagle County relaxed its public health order to allow restaurants to re-open dining rooms at half capacity in May, Yenerich was ready, and welcomed his customers back.
"All businesses were impacted thoughout the valley and throughout the country, but our community really stepped up," he says. "I can't express my gratitude enough for the way they reacted. They supported us and helped us keep the lights on."
And reconfigure Ti Amo for the new normal, with a fresh look for a chapter opening on the restaurant's next 25 years.