‘Heartbroken’: New Castle restaurant EAT Bistro & Drinks is up for sale

Owners and long-time customers give their goodbyes

Molly Mogavero and Jeff Ellis, owners of EAT Bistro & Drinks in New Castle.
Charles Engelbert/Courtesy

EAT Bistro & Drinks, the beloved locally-owned restaurant in New Castle, is up for sale.

The property for sale encompasses the historic three-story Rock Saloon built in 1890, as well as its accompanying two apartments that lie directly behind the property; both are two-bedroom, two-bath residential units.

The restaurant is owned by married couple Molly Mogavero and Jeff Ellis. Both take an active role in running the restaurant, with Mogavero working as chef while Ellis runs the lounge.

“We’re both in our fifties now, and we decided that it’s time,” Mogavero said. “And we’re really happy with the last 10 years that we’ve invested in the community here, but we’re just ready to do something different.”

A main course dish served at EAT Bistro & Drinks in New Castle.
EAT Bistro & Drinks/Courtesy

EAT Bistro is selling as a turnkey restaurant, meaning that the equipment’s working condition allows for immediate operation. The restaurant’s name, however, is not for sale.

The couple purchased the property in 2011, which soon after became Maud’s on Main. After a small hiatus in 2016, the restaurant came back as EAT Bistro & Drinks in 2017.

“We took a really big idea and brought it to a small community that we didn’t know would accept the idea, and they more than accepted it,” Mogavero said. “New Castle is … a small community. It’s not really driven by tourism, and we’ve made this casual, fine dining idea and dream into a complete success. And I’m so proud of what my husband and I have done here.”

The name “EAT Bistro” was chosen in memory of Mogavero and Ellis’ fathers, who both passed away within three weeks of each other leading up to the couple’s hiatus. The couple used one part of each of their names, Ed and Ellis, to make EAT.

“And so we took the ‘E,’ and we reopened as EAT Bistro & Drinks in their memory,” Mogavero said.

Molly Mogavero points to a stack of in-house cannolis.
EAT Bistro & Drinks/Courtesy

For Mogavero and Ellis, their goal for the restaurant was simple: to meet the needs of their community.

“I think we’ve over-achieved it,” Mogavero said. “There’s so many people that have come forward, and they’re heartbroken that we’re leaving … I think people really were able to understand what a dining experience really means and how important it is to be able to come to a restaurant of this caliber and sit down and let go of everything and just reconnect with each other. And I see it every day that I’m in here and we’re open for business.”

Soon after opening, the restaurant became known beyond the borders of New Castle for its “upscale, casual fine dining” experience.

“It was very interesting how many people did travel from there, and you would oftentimes be sitting next to people who would be coming from Carbondale or Glenwood or even Aspen a lot of the times, just to be there,” said Rob O’Leary, a New Castle resident and frequent customer of EAT Bistro.

For self-proclaimed foodies like O’Leary who “really don’t have anywhere else to eat in town,” the sale means saying goodbye to more than just a restaurant.

“I think no one’s ever done it so perfectly,” O’Leary said. “It’s a place where you [could show up] in a suit and tie or just coming off of a hike in hiking boots and shorts.”

Drinks from the bar at EAT Bistro & Drinks.
EAT Bistro & Drinks/Courtesy

According to Mogavero, customers’ responses to the restaurant closing have been overwhelmingly supportive, with not a single negative comment on their Facebook page, where 65-and-counting community members have written their well-wishes for the owners’ next adventure.

“We’re so heartbroken to lose it. But also, like, so proud of what they’ve built,” O’Leary said. “It’s almost like a victory.”

Likewise, staff at the restaurant have expressed their understanding and support for their employers.

“It’s a hard industry to be in, and it’s a labor of love for them, so they work like 100 hours a week,” said Kimberly Klein, who worked as a full-time hostess at EAT Bistro for over two years.

The support has made the couple feel better about their decision, which Mogavero emphasized was an entirely personal choice.

“We’re not leaving because we’re in any sort of financial trouble,” Mogavero said. “We’re leaving because we are at the top of our game right now, and my grandfather always used to tell me, ‘Don’t sell because you have to, sell because you want to.'”

“To step away has been a really tough decision for Jeff and I, but you have to make those decisions for yourself every once in a while,” Mogavero added. “This business is more than just a business to Jeff and I. It’s our heart. It was our heart for 10 years.”

One dessert dish of many made with love at EAT Bistro & Drinks.
EAT Bistro & Drinks/Courtesy

What unites most heartbroken customers, however, is the optimism for Mogavero and Ellis’ next steps.

“Jeff and I are ready for the next chapter of our life,” Mogavero said. “It includes family and friends. It includes vacations and motorcycle rides and all-day hikes, and all the things that we haven’t had the time to actually do because we have been running a successful restaurant.”

Mogavero said their hope is that the next buyer will continue to operate the place as a restaurant, and that it will continue to support the New Castle community.

“You have to take the leap and trust that your decision is the right one and that the right person is gonna come in and support the community like Jeff and I have all along so we can move on to the next phase of our life,” Mogavero said.

EAT Bistro & Drinks has yet to find a buyer. The restaurant’s operations will continue as normal until the property is sold, after which the owners plan to run the business for at least two additional weeks to give their team time to transition.

The two weeks will also give new and regular customers more than enough time to savor Mogavero’s favorite dish on the menu: the lasagna rollatini, a spin on her Sicilian grandmother’s lasagna.

“We’ll never forget our time here. Never, ever, ever,” Mogavero said. “We’re gonna walk away with our heads high, and we’re gonna walk away with really great friendships and experiences.”

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