The pale yellow, three-wheeled Vespa farm truck parked in front of Fattoria, Avon’s ambitious new farm-to-table trattoria, is more than decoration. The vehicle zips back and forth to the restaurant’s garden a half-mile up Nottingham Road, and it also serves as the Avon restaurant’s logo. But perhaps most apt is that the carmaker Piaggio fondly named the vehicle “Ape” (pronounced ap-é), which is Italian for “bee.” And there’s no doubt about it: James Pavelich, Has Noah Bender, and Steve Shelman—the three owners of Fattoria, Northside Kitchen, Benderz Burgers, and Southside Benderz in Avon and Northside Grab & Go in Vail—are very busy bees.
When Fattoria opened in early October, it marked the trio’s fifth restaurant between Avon and West Vail. They now effectively rule the categories of casual and upscale. Northside, which opened in 2011, staked its claim on good coffee, breakfast, and doughnuts long before the valley also fell in love with the restaurant’s white-tablecloth offerings of prime rib, lobster-shrimp risotto, and an impressive wine list. Next door sits Benderz Burgers (there’s also Southside Benderz near Fattoria), which has a corner on the market for stacked burgers, sandwiches, and sides like fried green beans. Northside Grab & Go in West Vail peddles many of the Avon shops’ greatest hits (doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, the Benderz burger), plus an array of groceries and ice cream by the scoop.
During the 2020 shutdown, Pavelich, Bender, and Shelman began offering family packs—well-priced, comfy take-and-bake meals like chicken and short-rib enchiladas, lasagna, and chicken Parmesan, plus sides matched to the meal. Where most restaurants have since abandoned their pandemic pop-up programs, this one saw so much success that it continues out of Benderz’s refrigerated case. As does the makeshift wine shop that invites customers to buy discounted bottles from Northside’s deep wine cellar. It seems that everything this crew touches is marked by success. But can one restaurant group really do it all—from doughnuts and burgers to take-and-bake and white tablecloth? If a recent dining experience at Fattoria is any indication, the answer is a hearty yes.
Fattoria, which means “farm” in Italian, derives its name from the greenhouse and garden that the restaurant group erected on a vacant lot adjacent to its Northside flagship, which shares an always-bustling parking lot with a 7-Eleven filling station. But the moniker is also a gentle nod to the location of Fattoria itself. You see, Fattoria opened in the space formerly occupied by Blue Plate, Adam and Elli Roustom’s beloved community-minded bistro that served many a heartfelt meal for 13 years. During the shutdown, the Roustoms turned their empty dining room into a greenhouse of sorts, growing tomatoes, peppers, radishes, herbs, microgreens, and more in the amply sunlit room. Sadly, Blue Plate closed its doors in November 2020. But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens—in this case, for Pavelich, Bender, and Shelman.
That realization of farm-fresh ingredients continues with Fattoria, which is headed up by executive chef Carl Sfat. In a day and age where the term “farm to table” often gets greenwashed, it’s refreshing to see a restaurant reel it back in with an honest take on what’s truly local and what’s not. For a taste of what’s growing in the greenhouse, the insalata Fattoria features a tangle of just-harvested lettuces, as well as the garden’s of-the-moment veggies (cucumbers, roasted carrots, and cherry tomatoes when I dined) and shaved sheep’s cheese. Sfat, who hails from Mezzaluna in Aspen, where he had most recently opened the Willits location, sends an amuse-bouche to welcome each diner.
Whatever the bite might be the evening you dine, consider it a preview of what’s to come. That, plus the divinely grassy Italian olive oil poured tableside to enjoy with fresh sourdough and focaccia, sets the stage. Of the signature cocktails, it feels on message to begin with the Fancy Ape (another reference to “bee”) adorned by a dried apple chip. Pair that with the dreamy burrata fritti—a not-at-all-cliché take on what has become a ubiquitous menu item. Sfat’s burrata is breaded and flash-fried (gilding the lily, perhaps, but so very worth it) and served with melty tomatoes and eggplant. Entrées such as the silky carbonara and the cacciucco, a seafood stew much like cioppino and served in a blue cast-iron pot, wrap you up in comfort but don’t weigh heavy.
Sfat’s menu is deeply Italian, from the polenta ai funghi and Bolognese to the veal saltimbocca and the affogato al caffe. In all, it is comforting, graceful, and bright in all the right ways. This is no red-sauce joint; instead, Fattoria is a glimmering modern restaurant with white-cloth napkins and a fine-dining air. The restaurant fills and empties against the ambient music of flatware against plates, glasses clinking, and guests conversing and laughing. Fattoria feels right—it feels Italian. It leaves you with a buzz that lasts even after you’ve pushed through the doors, past the farm truck, and out into the night.
48 E Beaver Creek Blvd, Avon