PastaLuego says ‘see you later (at the Vets Hall)’

Mad River Union

Coco Maki, businesswoman and idealist, hand-delivers PastaLuego's pasta to local outlets in order to minimize her carbon footprint. KLH | Union

ARCATA – Six years after opening a new era of Italian-influenced deli fare in Jacoby's Storehouse on the Plaza, Coco Maki's PastaLuego is saying, "see you later." In other words, it's closing.

But fear not, artisanal panini fans! The women-run restaurant will essentially re-open in or around January at the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building. There, it will have use of a full, commercial-grade kitchen and public dining facility, with a vets-only lounge in an adjacent room and a Great Room just upstairs with frequent events perfect for dancing off dinner.

The fusion of PastaLuego and the Vets Hall solves so many issues for both entities, it's almost surprising that it took so long to happen. Maki, a frequent speaker at city meetings on transportation and Plaza issues, has had to navigate any number of accessibility and public safety issues in her prime location, the latest being the mysterious theft and return of her commercial scale this week.

For its part, the Vets Hall has striven to restore its relevance as a community resource and operate more like a business – something not easy to do with mostly volunteers.

"The possibilities really are endless because we have access to a kitchen," Maki said. She has a remodeling plan for her new venue, and plans to take along the best of PastaLuego, including its gelato case, there. While the fare will remain Italian, the kitchen will make possible some new menu additions, such as soup.

First off, she'll bring new culinary interest to the Vets Hall's existing offerings, including its Little Italy event every third Friday and its third Sunday brunch.

Maki, who hails from a military family, is a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit – Arcata #274, and is soon to succeed current President Alison Robbins at the helm there.

"Those are my people," Maki said.

Maki is definitely the Vets Hall's kind of person and so is her culinary calling, according to American Legion Post 274 Commander and hall manager Jeff Sterling. "She has an entrepreneurial way and she's a go-getter," Sterling said of Maki.

"The hall needs to become a business," he said. "The veterans truly care about the community and want to see it survive."

Adding Maki's magic to the underutilized downstairs food service facilities will go a long way toward putting the hall on a business footing, making it more of a full-service community center and helping the community to survive in well-fed fashion.

"When the lights go out, we'll still be open," she said of her new restaurant at the hall.

Maki intends to leave her current spot in historic Jacoby's Storehouse by the end of the month. Once established at the Vets Hall, she could satisfy still another long-held dream – opening a food truck.







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