Restaurant Road Trip: Colasante’s Ristorante and Pub Revisited

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WESTOVER, W.Va. – For generations, the Colasante name has been synonymous with delicious, authentic Italian food.

The business was started in 1969 under the name ‘Westover Pizza,’ according to the owner, Anthony Colasante. “We grew up right up the street from here and my father, actually, was working at Sterling Faucet at the time. They just had an idea and started out kind of small, maybe a 2000 square foot building, pizzas and hoagies and salads and pasta. And it just grew from there,” said Colansante.

From there, Westover Pizza became “Colasante’s Ristorante and Pub“.

Colasante’s server picks up food to take to the dining room

Not much changed other than the name. The food has remained the same, using authentic recipes the Colasante family brought with them from Scanno, Italy decades ago.

Colasante’s mother played a big role in bringing that flavor across the Atlantic Ocean and onto the tongues of their customers in West Virginia.

“All the sauce was hers,” he said. “The dough I came up with. The soups were hers. My father did the pizza sauce.”

This family-oriented taste of Italy is what keeps customers coming back in Colasante’s opinion.

“I think the homemade flavors, you know, the pizza doughs to the sauces to — we cook all the hot sausage, the meatballs,” Colasante said. “Everything is made from scratch if you will. The soups and chili, too.”

Colasante’s cornucopia of delicious Italian servings is not, just, what keeps customers coming back. It’s actually how he met his wife Cindy.

“I worked here in college, and that’s how we met,” Cindy Colasante said. “And then once the fire happened, and we started to rebuild, and once we reopened, I left my job, at the time, in tourism after 14 years and came here to help my husband.”

The fire Colasante is referring to happened in 2016. As Anthony Colasante described, it was “a pretty devastating fire” in which they lost their original building. But, the family didn’t quit. Instead, in 2017, they opened a new restaurant in the same location.

There, they continued to do things the traditional Italian way, with heart, love and family. Because at the end of the day, the restaurant is still very much a family business.

“Everyone from my brother and his wife and his kids to my wife, my son,” Anthony Colasante said. “My mother did not get to see — I’m sorry — the new facility. She passed away while it was being built and she was the backbone.”

Despite his mother no longer being around, Colasante’s found continued success. Or, at least, that was the case until 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic was also a major setback for the business.

“Well, it’s been a heck of a ride, I guess if you will,” Anthony Colasante said. “Of course, we were closed, the dining room, in the beginning. We went strictly carry out, and we shut the pub down as well. And with carryout, we had a pretty nice response from the public. And it was busy and little by little, we brought some tables back in. We, still, have not brought the whole dining room back together and the products now are an issue: getting products in, prices have all gone up, which I’m sure everybody in this business knows. Employee retention has been a little hard. We are just battling every day, a lot of obstacles right now.”

Cindy Colasante said she, her husband and the rest of the family have tried to keep in good spirits throughout the pandemic.

Cindy Colasante plating a buffalo chicken salad

But, like any other small business in America in 2021, they are finding it difficult to weather the pandemic storm. She said she’s concerned about longevity and if Colasante’s can remain sustainable while COVID persists.

“We are going to go through another phase where customers are worried to come back in to eat in public,” she said. “And, hopefully, they’ll remain strong with our carry out like they did the first wave. And that’s, particularly, why we’ve not gone back to a full 100% capacity in our dining room. It’s so our customers, still, feel really safe and comfortable while they’re eating in and dining in our restaurant.”

 For the most part, Cindy Colasante said, their core group of staff has stuck around during the pandemic. This includes people like Kitchen Manager Bill Tucker who has been with the family for more than 25 years.

Cindy Colasante working in the kitchen, with Bill Tucker behind her

“We, really, can’t thank them enough for their dedication and hard work,” Colasante said. “I mean, a lot of them put in a lot of hard hours during the chunk of the pandemic last year, and we, kind of, came out on the other side. But, you know, who’s to know what’s going to happen next, but, hopefully, we’ll still be here when it’s over.”

When it’s all said and done, and the pandemic is a thing of the past, Colasante’s will still be serving food as it always has.

But, why keep doing the hard work?

“Well, product for one,” Anthony Colasante said. “I think we put out a nice meal with good flavor. I think people realize that it’s authentic; it’s not canned. And that keeps us going. That’s a motivation if you will.”

Colasante’s menu

With more than 50 years of experience in the business, time has proven that customers will keep coming back, Colasante added. That’s why they have so many repeat customers.

“I think a part of it, too, is, just, continuing the tradition and legacy of Anthony’s Mom and Dad and what they started years ago,” Cindy Colasante said. “And, you know, preserving their family recipes that they brought with them when they came over to America.”

It is these time-tested and honored traditions that the Colasantes hope will be their savior from the ever-expanding clutches of the pandemic.

Cindy Colasante in the kitchen along with her son Domenic

“You know, just like my husband said, our pizza dough has a different flavor to it,” Cindy Colasante said. “I always tell customers that our pizza is still just as good cold the next day as it is hot from the first bite, so definitely pizza. Pasta. If you like a little kick to your pasta sauce, you know, we’re not on the sweet side. We’re a little on the spicy side. But anything you try here, I think you’re going to go home happy and full.”

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