Real Estate & Construction  March 11, 2011

The Passport a destination restaurant

FORT COLLINS – Three Fort Collins entrepreneurs hope to breathe new life into a venue that has had many incarnations over the years by giving it a floor-to-ceiling remodel, a new theme, and a new name. 

The spot at 313 Drake Road, formerly known as The Cork – before that County Cork Irish Pub and briefly Tailgate Tommy’s – is a three-story, 8,500-square-foot building with tremendous potential, according to the building’s new owners: husband and wife Mitch and Sara Mallouf, and Sara’s mother, Luana D’Ambrosio.

The trio purchased the building Jan. 19 and began transforming it into The Passport Restaurant, which will take advantage of the spacious interior and multiple kitchens to serve three different types of cuisines from three different countries. 

The restaurant, which will include a full bar, will feature foods from Italy, Mexico and America, and while customers can order any type of food from anywhere in the restaurant, each floor will have a different theme reflecting one of the countries.

The team hopes three different cuisines will keep a wide variety of customers happy and will entice those who can’t decide where to eat or large parties with many different taste buds to please.

Offering everything from steak to buffalo wings also means that the price will be right for any customer, said Mitch Mallouf.

“If they want to come in and get a nice steak caruso in Italy, they can do that, or they can grab a couple tacos,” he said. “They can spend as much or as little as they like.”

Generations of experience

Beginning and maintaining any restaurant is difficult, but the family has generations of experience in the restaurant business to help them with the challenge. D’Ambrosio’s mother, who was known as Mama Gina, owned and operated an Italian restaurant in the San Joaquin Valley in California for 38 years, using authentic family recipes handed down through the generations.

D’Ambrosio was born in Italy, speaks fluent Italian, and grew up learning her mother’s cooking methods. She will be preparing the Italian food at The Passport.

“It’s all going to be made from scratch, fresh every day, and very authentic,” Sara Mallouf said. D’Ambrosio will be using her family recipes for everything from entrées to dessert, including her personal favorite, tiramisu.

“There’s just something about tiramisu that makes you twinkle all over,” D’Ambrosio said.

With 60 bar stools and flat-screen televisions for viewing sporting events, the family hopes to draw college students and sports lovers looking for a watering hole. But they are more focused on maintaining an atmosphere suitable for families and large parties looking for a relaxing, inviting atmosphere to enjoy a good meal.

Mitch Mallouf also stressed the possibilities of holding large business meetings at the restaurant with its open spaces and large tables.

“If someone wants to hold a meeting at 9 in the morning, we’ll be here,” he said.

D’Ambrosio also mentioned the possibilities for couples to have date nights at The Passport, which, in addition to large spaces features many smaller nooks and crannies in which D’Ambrosio can promise a romantic evening, complete with candlelight.

“In Italy, we know all about romance,” D’Ambrosio said.

Between sports fans, families, businesspeople and couples, The Passport’s owners hope to make their restaurant a place where anyone can go and feel comfortable, eat a good meal at the right price and have a good time. 

Live music on the patio

The restaurant also features a 1,200-square-foot patio that Fort Collins residents have enjoyed for many summers under previous owners, and indoor stages where live bands can perform.  Once they open, the owners will consider having local talent perform in their restaurant, Sara Mallouf said.

The owners hope to shed the reputation the building has garnered over the last few years and restore the community’s faith in the location as a good place to eat and drink.

“It used to be a great place with great food,´ said 1997 Colorado State University graduate Jessi Fisher, “The lunches were fabulous!”

More recently, however, the building has become rundown and has difficulty attracting business.

The new owners focus on the fact that they remodeled the building from floor to ceiling, and that everything inside is new.

“There’s going to be a whole new look to the entire building,´ said Sara Mallouf, who grew up doing her homework between busing tables in her grandmother’s restaurant. “It’s going to have a unique personality and a very special, very personal feel.”

The staff at The Passport will also be completely new, according to Mitch Mallouf.  They will be hiring four bartenders and 45 servers.  To ensure customer satisfaction, one of the owners will be present at all times, according to D’Ambrosio.

Hours of operation have not been firmly decided, but according to Mitch Mallouf, the restaurant will open for lunch around 11 a.m., and will likely close around midnight for those who wish to stay out later in the evening but not so late as to make it feel like a nightclub.

All three owners are excited to get their new business off the ground and get back into the restaurant business.

“We love food.  We love customers,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s in our blood.”

FORT COLLINS – Three Fort Collins entrepreneurs hope to breathe new life into a venue that has had many incarnations over the years by giving it a floor-to-ceiling remodel, a new theme, and a new name. 

The spot at 313 Drake Road, formerly known as The Cork – before that County Cork Irish Pub and briefly Tailgate Tommy’s – is a three-story, 8,500-square-foot building with tremendous potential, according to the building’s new owners: husband and wife Mitch and Sara Mallouf, and Sara’s mother, Luana D’Ambrosio.

The trio purchased the building Jan. 19 and began transforming it into…

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