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Monday, July 23, 2018, 4:45 a.m.

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Pasta J’s in Little Rock to close for Villa revival

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published June 21, 2018 at 2:41 p.m.

ken-shivey-with-employee-lourdes-melo-in-the-villa-kitchen-on-west-markham-street-in-2012-is-working-with-the-owners-of-pasta-js-in-west-little-rock-to-turn-it-into-the-villa-west

Ken Shivey, with employee Lourdes Melo in the Villa kitchen on West Markham Street in 2012, is working with the owners of Pasta J’s in west Little Rock to turn it into The Villa West.

Tracye Thomason and David Whitt, owners of Pasta J's West, 14004 Taylor Loop Road, Little Rock, have gotten together with Ken Shivey to at long last revive The Villa of late lamented memory.

The restaurant will, as of the first week of August, morph into The Villa West, using Shivey's recipes, and bringing back many of the Villa dishes, appetizers and side items. And yes, that includes the Villa's salad with the shaved mozzarella curlicues; the minestrone soup; the bread; the veal, sausage, piccata and marsala dishes; and some of the pastas, including the spinach fettucine.

They'll keep some of the Pasta J menu items -- "We got a lot of customers begging us, 'Please don't change your Alfredo sauce,'" Thomason says, so they'll hold onto that. The restaurant will continue to offer pizza, though Thomason isn't sure if it'll be their current pizza or the version the Villa served.

"We were big Villa fans," Thomason explains, adding that mutual friends put them together with Shivey, who retired when he closed the Villa's last incarnation, in a shopping center at West Markham Street and Bowman Road, in October 2013. He's helping get the place open -- not as a partner, Thomason notes, although he may show up in the early days of Villa West to greet customers. "He's so eager and anxious for them to have that dining experience," she says.

Pasta J's will start serving a limited menu in early July, Thomason says, in part so former Villa cooks can train the current kitchen staff, and partially for renovation. Facsimiles of Villa decor items will go on the walls alongside photos Thomason and Whitt took during a trip to Italy.

If all goes according to schedule, it'll reopen Aug. 1 with the new menu. (The Pasta J's in Bryant, with which this is loosely affiliated but which has operated with a different menu, won't be changing, Thomason says.) Expect the restaurant to keep its current hours -- 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday -- but it may open on Sundays in the fall. The phone number will also remain the same: (501) 868-5225.

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