Island Pasta Celebrates 25 Years As A Coronado Dining Institution - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

Island Pasta Celebrates 25 Years As A Coronado Dining Institution

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Posted: Friday, July 5, 2019 11:23 am

Operating on a shoe string budget, Brant and Carol Sarber opened Island Pasta 25 years ago. Sarber, a Coronado native and son of a Navy SEAL, loved the idea of opening a pasta restaurant to give the guys going through BUDS training an opportunity to carb out. He had been working as a bartender at the Chart House, (currently Bluewater Boathouse), and was known among his co-workers for his love of cooking.

With the idea of opening a restaurant and saving money for his venture, Sarber also had a house painting business called Brush and Rush. His wife Carol and her sister Kathy Byrne, who is the manager/owner of Island Pasta, worked for him. Those days were not easy. Sarber worked as a painter during the day, went home to shower and then headed to his bartending job at the Chart House.

While Sarber was remodeling the restaurant, which had been a shop called Oriental Arts, the high school gym floor was getting redone and he asked if he could have the wood floor to use in the restaurant. “I did anything I could to save,” he said.

Sarber also found a pasta shop which was closing and bought kitchen equipment, including a pasta machine, and hired their pasta chef Aurora Casiano, who has now been at Island Pasta for 25 years.

When Island Pasta opened on July 1, Sarber’s friends who were waiters and waitresses, helped out. “We were not paying them, they worked for tips. They were professional waiters and waitresses who wanted to help us to get started, “ he recalled.

The Sarbers opened the restaurant at 5 p.m. right after the health inspector left. A few days later on the Fourth of July the restaurant had so many customers the Sarbers had to close by noon because they ran out of semolina.

Sarber has always prided himself over the years on the fact that Island Pasta is an affordable restaurant where you can have a great meal. “We are not a $100 person a plate restaurant. You can have dinner for $20,” he said.

When Island Pasta first opened, recalled Sarber, Coronado was mostly a Navy town and tourists were not as many as today, so his idea was to cater to the locals which is still the mainstay of the eatery. Based on that idea, Island Pasta is a regular supporter of local schools’s fundraisers. Sarber also hires local students for the summer and has given many their first job. The Sarbers’ daughter, Emily, who just finished her freshman year in college is also working at the restaurant this summer.

Being family owned has always meant everyone is hands on at Island Pasta, with Carol doing the books, Kathy as the manager, and Brant staying busy doing anything that is necessary for the day to day operations from acting as the host to bussing tables.

When Island Pasta first opened, the menu was smaller than it is today. “We had a choice of pasta, sauces, and sizes - small or large for $4.95 and $5.95 - probably had six or seven specialty pastas with shrimp or chicken or fresh fish, three choices of salad, and a couple of sandwiches and three or four pizzas. Our pizzas are different. They are more like Chicago style but not deep dish. We put semolina as part of the dough to make it crisp,” he explained.

The original menu was created in collaboration with Kim Martin who was the chef at Chez Loma at the time.

Over the years the most popular dish at Island Pasta has been the Rigatoni Bake served in a bowl with a meat sauce and melted cheese.

Not much has changed in 25 years. Customers can still eat at the counter made with wood salvaged from the original floor. Beer and wine are served. There are 40 wines on list, with some Italian, but mostly California wines. Fresh pasta can still be purchased by the pound and take out is a big part of the business as well. Sarber said although all the pasta is made on site, cannelloni and manicotti are purchased from an old Italian guy who has a small operation. He makes his pasta for only a handful of restaurants in San Diego.

Island Pasta also offers some gluten free pasta choices.

Sarber has a big following among the regular Arizona vacationers. “Some of the people from Arizona come here before they go home. It’s the freshness. We make everything here,” he said.

Five years after the opening of Island Pasta, Sarber made a leap of faith and opened a second restaurant, Costa Azul, a Mexican eatery a block down the street on Orange Avenue. After running the successful restaurant for many years, last November he closed it due to a new landlord. But Sarber has not given up and he is still actively looking for another space to reopen. “People are asking me probably five times a day. ‘Are you looking for a place for Costa?’” he said.

Sarber also credits his mom, real estate agent Phyl Sarber, for helping his business over the years with her support. “With all her connections around town she is always telling her friends and clients to come in and eat, a big help in building a customer base. She has been supportive in every way she can. She not only comes to eat but stops by to see how everything is going and what she can do to help,” he said.

Island Pasta has been highlighted in Zagat’s restaurant guide as third best restaurant in Coronado.

Island Pasta, 1202 Orange Avenue. Call 619-435-4545 or log on

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