Former manager breathes new life into Pastabilities in Buffalo Grove
For Gabby Velazquez, the Pastabilities are endless.
The Antioch resident is only 22. Yet she has taken over the reins of a 26-year-old Buffalo Grove business.
In June, Mark Esposito, owner of Pastabilities, long a fixture at 167 McHenry Road, decided to close the store, citing health and personal issues, and continue the catering business.
Enter Velazquez, who had recently been hired as Esposito's manager and had a background in restaurant management going back to her teens.
She took over the business and reopened on Oct. 17, National Pasta Day.
Under the new ownership, Pastabilities has hardly skipped a beat. A familiar face still graces the kitchen, head chef Jesus Jimenez of Mundelein, who worked for Esposito for 20 years.
"He is the definition of the happiest person you will ever meet," she said. "Every morning he shows up with a smile on his face, dancing in the kitchen."
Velazquez started working in restaurants when she was 15. By the age of 17 while still a student at Minooka Community High School, she was managing a Subway in Channahon.
Esposito, who lives in Gurnee, said he met Velazquez at Gurnee Mills.
"I was telling her I was thinking of retiring," he said. "She said she loved the restaurant business and had just recently moved into the area. So I said come work for me for a little while."
After he closed the business on the day of her wedding, she contacted him about reopening.
"The opportunity came, and I definitely seized the moment," she said.
"We worked out a deal and with my blessing she went ahead," said Esposito. "She's a mature person for her age, and she's really good with customers. She's a fast learner."
The new Pastabilities is just like the old one, with the same recipes, including such favorites as eggplant Parmesan, chicken Alfredo and the tri-color tortellini with pink sauce.
"You can't change something that's been around for 26 years," she said.
"It's exactly the way it was," said Esposito, who still visits frequently. "She hasn't tried to cut corners or changed anything. She has actually added a few nice little flairs to it. She really has a lot of passion for the business, and the customers are piling in."
She said that the store is about the same size as the Subway she once ran.
"The only difference was (that) was run by a corporate office and (his) was family style," she said.
She has found that owning is different from managing.
"I can now look at both sides, which I like a lot, because a lot of my employees are actually my age," she said.
Her work ethic suited her perfectly to the task.
"I always liked working. I actually had two jobs my senior year," working at Bath & Body Works and full-time at Subway, she said. "Growing up, I saw a lot of people depend on other people for things. And so, for me, when I first found out that I could make my own money and didn't have to ask for it, that was like an addiction almost. You couldn't stop me."
Meanwhile, Esposito has started biggestbelly.com, an online delivery business that ships meal kits to people's homes.
"It's all my sauce, and my pastas, and my homemade cookies," he said.