PARK SLOPE — Allison Arevalo knows how to run a restaurant. Although she is originally from Long Island, her Oakland, California, mac and cheese restaurant Homeroom was a flash success when it opened in 2011, after she left a job in marketing. Before she knew it, the small spot had turned into multiple locations with a 90 person staff. A cookbook even came out of the venture, The Mac + Cheese Cookbook.
“It was around that time that I began realizing that it wasn’t exactly the job that I wanted anymore. I got out of the corporate world because I didn’t like being behind a desk and I wanted to be on my feet, walking around and cooking. There [were] lots of meetings, strategy, and plans. All those things are good things— I feel like a lot of people would strive to reach that point. But, I realized it just wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted something that could stay smaller, so I decided to sell it,” Arevalo told us.
At that time, Arevalo was dealing with a sick child and a sister with a cancer diagnosis and turned back to food as a source of joy in her life. She started Pasta Fridays in 2017, a supper club she held at her home, cooking big vats of pasta for friends and their families.
“[Pasta Fridays] started out because I was selling my business [Homeroom], dealing with my sick family members, and just not in a good place. The only times when I felt happy and good were when I was cooking for friends. So, I started inviting people over and before I knew it it was this big event. People were calling and emailing me like, ‘how do I get an invite to Pasta Friday?’ I was like, ‘Okay! I guess this is a thing!” Arevalo shared. She later turned the concept into the subject of her second cookbook, The Pasta Friday Cookbook.
When Arevalo and her family decided to move back to Brooklyn to be closer to family last June, she knew that another restaurant would be in the cards. Pasta Louise, her next venture, plans to open in May on 8th street and 8th Avenue in Park Slope.
“We actually found [the Pasta Louise] space before we found an apartment,” she laughed. Arevalo and her family live just blocks away from the spot, which has a historical landmark status. It was a pharmacy for many years prior, and Arevalo says she found tons of old handwritten prescriptions from the 1950s in the basement as she began to clear out the space.
The spot will operate primarily as fast-casual, with counter service and some roving waiters. All of the pastas, likely seven or eight total, will be made on-site and will include gluten-free options. In addition, Pasta Louise will serve salads, veggie sides, wines, and beers. Soft serve and fixings will also be on the menu, with kid’s happy hours a likely part of the restaurant’s future. The Pasta Friday tradition will continue on in the space, which will offer packages of pasta, sauce, and bread for guests to purchase and make at home.
The restaurant is named for Arevalo’s grandmother, who was hugely influential in her love of food.
“She taught me a lot about cooking, especially how to make pasta and just sort of the staples of Italian cooking and the importance of being with family. Family was everything to her. Every Sunday we would always get together for our big family dinner, and she was always the happiest when we were all at her house eating,” Arevalo shared with us. Louise is memorialized in Pasta Louise’s logo, which features her smiling.
“She would be so totally embarrassed if she knew the picture was my logo. There was no way she would’ve let me do that,” Arevalo laughed.
Pasta Louise will be memorial in more ways than just the name. The restaurant will offer the Pasta Rose scholarship, named for the middle name Arevalo’s two nieces share, for Brooklyn high schoolers who have lost a parent to cancer, as a tribute to Arevalo’s sister. The scholarship will be funded by pasta classes, pasta machine demos, and other community events.
In addition, Pasta Louise will make weekly meal donations to those in hospice at the Methodist hospital where Arevalo volunteers.
“I’m doing meal donations to people in hospice also because of my sister. She was in hospice before she passed and she didn’t want to eat the hospital food anymore. She loved good food, I mean, she loved to cook, and she loved to eat, and all she wanted was White Castle,” she laughed, reminiscing. “It was the last meal that she had and it just made her so happy to have the food that she wanted. I’m trying to set something up with [the hospital], so maybe they could call me or have the families call me, and I could deliver a few meals to people who want some delicious pasta.”
In the months leading up to the opening, the restaurant is still in construction, work that Arevalo enjoys.
“Even though it’s a mess right now with construction, so many neighbors come in to chat and they all have such amazing stories. I met the people who started Brooklyn Brewery, I met the guy who started the first organic food store in Brooklyn. [There are] all of these people that are just so excited to see something great in that space,” she told us. When finished, the interior will have a vintage feel, with lots of blush pinks, greens, and golds.
Arevalo looks forward to Pasta Louise being a neighborhood spot where everyone is welcome. As a parent of two boys, she hopes the spot will be family-friendly in a way that some of the fancier Italian restaurants aren’t. Both Arevalo and Pasta Louise have already begun to dig into the community.
“I live a couple blocks away, my kids are in school right here,” Arevalo told us. “It really feels like home, more than Oakland ever did.”
Pasta Louise is located at 803 8th Avenue, between 8th and 9th streets. When they first open, hours will be Monday-Saturday 7:30am-9:30pm.