One of Mitchell’s downtown staples offers a unique twist on fine dining while showing plenty of support for local farmers and vendors. Pesto Italian offers several Italian dishes using ingredients from the Panhandle and Eastern Wyoming.
The restaurant, at 1344 Center Ave. in Mitchell, is open Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.
Pesto Fine Italian is a facet of Marketplace and Company, which is managed in one place by Mindy Peterson. Through her business, she also sells gifts, decor, and even flowers.
The Marketplace started selling granola and coffee in 2018, but within months Petersen realized it wasn’t a sustainable business per se and decided to change tack.
“We have Dackle Market (The Happy Dackle) around the corner that has opened. We have the auction house. RedZ (Bar and Grill) is very popular. We have a new cafe down the street that just opened, but all of those things weren’t there when I started. The only thing that was here was the bar across the street, so…our main focus was to create small businesses within a business to provide services,” she said.
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Petersen opened Pesto Italian in December 2018. Since then, the business has grown even further.
“Our goal is to provide services that this city doesn’t have,” Petersen said. “…We’re really not huge, but we’re really unique in what we do.”
The restaurant offers themed gourmet nights, morning brunches, and a brunch club that saves money as the year progresses. Petersen also said she offers whiskey flights and private teas.
The menu is also somewhat customizable, as customers can select a sample of wines and Petersen will craft a menu around the options they have chosen.
The restaurant offers a unique dining style. Instead of a single dish, diners receive their dishes gradually, from appetizer to dessert.
“My heritage is Italian on my mother’s side so I’ve been cooking for 40 years. I’m self-taught and very attentive to what comes out of this kitchen,” Petersen said.
Lunches and dinners have their own menus. The daily menu includes soups, salads, charcuterie boards and pasta dishes. The dinner menu features some of the same food, but also includes steaks, seafood, additional desserts, and more drink options.
“It takes about an hour and a half because you get a salad, you get your bread, you get your entree, and most people finish their meal with dessert,” Petersen said.
The restaurant offers coffee, sodas, bubble tea and milkshakes to drink. It also offers cocktail and wine lists.
Those who dine also receive a free appetizer with their meals. Petersen said reservations are encouraged for large parties and required for groups of eight or more.
Italian pesto sources several ingredients from local vendors. They get their bread from The Bread Doctor in Torrington and their vegetables from Gooper Greens in Banner County.
“Anything we can source locally, we source locally,” Petersen said.
Their gift shop also sells locally made goods, from coffee to seasonings to vinegar. Much of the decoration offered by the company is also made locally. Petersen said she likes to circulate the money in the local economy.
She recently redecorated the business by moving the tables, sofas and shelves to create a more inviting atmosphere. She said the new layout encourages diners to shop at the gift racks before paying for their meals.
About 40 customers can eat at any time. The smaller size means private parties can have the whole restaurant to themselves. Petersen said it came in handy when she faced coronavirus-related dining restrictions.
“Just like farmers who take that risk and plant seeds and hope they can grow a crop, it’s the same with a business. You literally grow your business on a daily basis, grow it, work it, and build your brand,” she said.
The business relies primarily on word of mouth; Petersen also sends out a monthly newsletter detailing future events. She said she always encourages customers to come back.
Italian market and pesto have recently been given another avenue to increase their recognition. The business was selected as one of the destinations for the 2022 Nebraska Passport program. Petersen said many local residents visited didn’t even know the restaurant existed.
She said her goal is to make the restaurant as inviting as possible, a place where people can make memories. She mentioned how people threw birthday parties and even got engaged at the facility.
His plan is to retire in about a decade.
“We hope that…my daughters will then want to take over the business and run it and that I can be more of a hostess at that time instead of being the full-time (manager),” she said.
Petersen acts more than just a manager; she is also the cook of the restaurant and the owner of the building. The company is run by a team of just five people.
Yet they keep growing. They use DoorDash and Grubhub to deliver meals and grow their customer base. Plus, their new on-site flower shop, Flowers on Center Avenue, will be hosting a grand opening celebration on May 27-28.
Like the restaurant and gift shop, the florist will source from local farmers and vendors, including those in Scottsbluff and Huntley, Wyoming.
“It really is an evolving business,” Petersen said, “and the evolution has been great.”