Bartender of the Week: Pasta Pesto Italian Grill

This week’s master mixologist has tended bar on three continents across the world, but has found her home here in the Wildwoods at Pasta Pesto Bar & Grill of Atlantic Avenue. Ellen has been a member of the Pasta Pesto staff since July of 2013 and has since, as she puts it, “taken over the bar”. She brings with her many years of experience and some amazing tales of past bartending gigs. “The first time I worked as a bartender I was twenty four years old and it was on the island of Saint Croix,” she recounts. Ellen worked at a small Italian restaurant where the slogan was “Tutto Bene”, or “all is good”. Here, “I learned everything I needed to know about wine,” she explains. Ellen soaked up Carribbean life for about six months before making the move to New Zealand, where she tended bar at an authentic Creole eatery. “I’ve worked in the restaurant business on and off for years, but Pasta Pesto is the best. The servers are great. Here at the bar, they know all their vodkas and rums and the fruits that go best with each drink,” states Ellen. But her absolute favorite aspect of the job remains the interesting customers she meets on a daily basis. “They are all from different walks of life and cultures. And I love to travel. So I really enjoy learning more about where they’ve been and what they’ve done and seen.”

Ellen’s most recent accomplishment behind the beautifully finished Pasta Pesto bar has been her careful crafting of the signature Martini List. She’s most excited about the Reese’s Pieces Martini – a dessert martini made with vodka, crème de cocoa, and rimmed with Reese’s Pieces. The glass is first drizzled with caramel and chocolate before the martini is masterfully poured. When she’s off the clock, Ellen likes to unwind with frozen, rum cocktails. Captain Morgan is also a favorite. Her months spent in Saint Croix inspired a love for Cruzan Rum, particularly pineapple flavor. On her day off, you can find Ellen on the beach unwinding from the stimulating restaurant environment. “It’s good to escape for the day and come down after talking to all those people and the fast pace of the job,” states Ellen. She has a passion for reading and finds that a good book is often the best way to seek such escape. Her favorite author is John Irving and she has read “almost everything”, from novels to short stories, by this acclaimed author.

Ellen is a self-described “people person” as one of eight children, and she cannot wait to reconnect with summer regulars this 2014 season. She’s most well known for her excellent memory and ability to recall her patrons’ cocktails of choice. “People are what they drink,” explains Ellen. “So I’ll often meet a new customer and get a vibe for what they might order.” These orders and the conversations that follow stick with Ellen in an extremely impressive way. Ellen invites all to take a seat at Pasta Pesto’s 10-seat, illuminated bar any day of the week for great service and stellar drinks. Swing by for Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. and enjoy $3 domestic drafts, $4 house wines, a taste from the $6 menu, and $1 off mixed drinks including the Calypso Cooler, Ellen’s personal recommendation.

By Meg Kummer