By Jesse Wood
With a new venture at the Fairway Café and Venue, the owners of Casa Rustica, which has served Italian-American cuisine in Boone since 1981, are breathing new life into the company’s catering operation and the Boone Golf Club – all while creating a new space for the public to gather.
Casa Rustica owner Rick Pedroni started the catering business during the recession in order to “protect the brand and build off of it” and fill a medium-price point that he felt was absent in the High Country. With C.R. Catering Co. growing quicker than he envisioned during the last three years and needing more space, he said it was time to move the catering operation out of the restaurant located on N.C. 105.
As a member of the Boone Golf Club for the past 15 years, Pedroni said he had been eyeing the Fairway Café and Venue for a few years. When it became available, he jumped at the chance to maximize the potential of the facility, which has been under utilized, flown somewhat under the radar and has one of the best views in town.
“My wife said I really planned this out well,” Pedroni joked. “I got a little bit closer to golf.”
After signing a lease, Pedroni oversaw some cosmetic renovations, including a locally handcrafted 32-foot long bar made from maple wood. The kitchen area has been revamped in order to serve both the golfers that are playing well into the evening and the general public that come for lunch or guests for a special event.
“We’re dusting it off and putting new life into it,” Pedroni said. “[The golf course] has a lot of history, a lot of people, believe it or not, in the community met here, wed here and had parties here.”
He hopes to continue that tradition.
According to Michael Foreman, who is in charge of the Fairway Café and Venue and catering services, the kitchen has been segmented into three different sections: main prep area for serving the café; main production area for the catering that is in the middle of the kitchen and surrounded by refrigeration; and a separate area that will still service the hungry and thirsty golfers.
An acclaimed culinary specialist, Foreman previously worked with the Milners in Blowing Rock, helping to establish Gideon Ridge Inn, Bistro Roca and the New Public House and Hotel, before deciding it was time to “refresh his engine.”
Foreman took a month off around the beginning of the New Year and worked on his farm. A mutual friend of Foreman and Pedroni, Jeff Collins of Peabody’s Wine & Merchants and Benchmark Provisions, put the two in touch. Foreman and Pedroni, who had known each other for years being in the local restaurant industry, immediately hit it off.
“Ricky explained to me the history of Casa, which I had never known, which was a fascinating story for me, anything family tied, and that was why the relationship with the Milners was so great because it was very family to me,” Foreman said. “To be accepted into another family and another family-owned operation and to be working for a family man like Rick being that I have a daughter, it was a nice marriage because we share a lot of the same values.”
While Casa Rustica is known for serving Italian-American cuisine, the food at the Fairway Café and Venue and in the catering will be more diverse with the following themes: Southern BBQ, High Country, Low Country, Traditional American, Italian, Mexican and an array of appetizers. See a menu here.
Foreman said that is following some of the trends he incorporated in the Blowing Rock restaurants, such as the farm to table approach that serves lighter, healthier fare with a cool innovative twist. He also mentioned “grilled and roasty flavors.”
“We’ll adapt through the seasons, bringing in as many local farmers as we can,” Foreman said, adding that he is also going to push for a primarily North Carolina-based product line.
The venue, which has full ABC permits, can seat about 100 inside and roughly 40 on the outside patio, where a tent can be set up if needed. If it’s standing room only – for say a cocktail party with appetizers along the bar – then Pedroni said that even more people could be accommodated. The inside can also be portioned if a group wants to talk amongst themselves during lunch at the cafe. In addition to the menu, a private buffet can be arranged.
The catering company will also travel to events or homes. Pedroni noted that they have been private chefs for households for up to two to three days in the past.
Pedroni and Foreman said that while golfers will be served until 8 or 9 p.m., the café, which will open at 11 a.m., will be closed to the public at 5 p.m.
The operators will open the establishment on evenings if a special event is planned. Dates can be secured up to a year in advance free of charge, however once someone else inquires about a date, a deposit must be put down.
Pedroni wants the Fairway Café and Venue to become a mainstay in the community that offers a place for a wide array of community events – some of which will be unique only to the venue. Pedroni said that aside from a bar or movie, there is little for him and his wife, Elizabeth, to do on days that they can find a babysitter and get away from the restaurant.
“I want a place where people can do other things than that,” Pedroni said.
For example, the venue is hosting and producing a dinner-theatre event in conjunction with the BeanStalk Community Theatre for a play called, “Dearly Departed,” through the end of March. [Teachers are invited to this event with the chance to win a $500 raffle to be used in their classrooms.]
“This is an awesome opportunity to see our catering, showcase the venue and diversity of what it’s capable of doing,” Pedroni said.
The venue has also already hosted an ACES (Association of Consultants and Event Specialists) gathering and an ASU group and numerous corporate events in just a short time.
He also envisions hosting weddings, group meetings, bridal and baby showers, birthday parties and more. In the future, the Pedronis and Foreman are thinking of other special events such as a cookout night in the summer, a bingo night, a Friday Flight Night – with flights of wine, food samples and entertainment – junior cooking classes and comedy tours. These are among all sorts of activity ideas that have been thrown around.
While events have been held already at the venue, Pedroni is “shooting” for the Fairway Café and Venue to officially open to the public for lunch on the golf course’s traditional opening day in late March, sometime around when the “Dearly Departed” production concludes.
For more information, click to Casa Rustica’s website for contact information, menus and more details. See photos of the venue below.