L’Hostaria brings community to the walls, and the table | AspenTimes.com

L’Hostaria brings community to the walls, and the table

Master sommelier Jay Fletcher, photographed by Jim Paussa. Paussa's portraits of Aspen community members will hang on the walls of L'Hostaria all winter.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: L’Hostaria 18th Anniversary Art Show & Party

When: Saturday, Nov. 15, 5:30 - 7 p.m.

Where: L’Hostaria, 620 E. Hyman Ave.

More info: 970-925-9022

Photographer Jim Paussa and Chef Tiziano Gortan this summer hatched an idea for a photography show at Gortan’s downtown Aspen restaurant, L’Hostaria, to celebrate its 18th anniversary and the people who have made it a success. The result is a series of 15 large format portraits, rendered in rich black and white, capturing the people of Aspen.

Paussa’s subjects range from Aspen Music Festival and School students to dancers from Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, from ski patrollers to Mountain Rescue volunteers, from architect Charles Cunniffe to master sommelier Jay Fletcher.

“I just wanted to shoot stuff that’s community-minded,” Paussa explained. “The real stuff that’s going on, the real people that serve the community.”

The show also invites a bit of life imitating art imitating life. Paussa’s portrait of longtime local abstract artist Betty Weiss will be positioned beside Weiss’s regular table in the L’Hostaria dining room, where she eats several times most weeks.

“The idea is to celebrate 18 years of L’Hostaria, and to use the walls of the restaurant to have an art show related to the community we serve,” Gortan said over lunch at his Elk Run home this week with his wife, Enrica, and Paussa. He moved from the table to the kitchen — where he prepared a penne with aged ricotta and truffle salt — in bare feet and an Aspen Volunteer Fire Department T-shirt.

Gortan has made the restaurant and bar a respected fine dining destination as well as a warm, welcoming, locals-friendly space, staying open through the offseasons, keeping the bar menu affordable and the drinks generously poured. His approach has helped make L’Hostaria an inclusive oasis in a town that elsewhere often feels socially stratified between the haves and have-nots. The photography show, like the restaurant itself, seeks to transcend the wide socio-ecomomic gap between the ski bum and the billionaire.

“It’s become a social place where people feel at home,” Gortan said. “That’s the goal.”

The chef and the photographer decided to move forward with the show in July. Once they decided on the concept, they ran into the difficult task of editing Paussa’s work and selecting who would be featured in the show. It’s decidedly not a “who’s who” kind of exhibition, they said, not making judgments about who is important and who — in their absence — is not. Instead, the portraits aim to give a glimpse of a cross-section of the Aspen community.

Paussa had one previous show at the restaurant, where art exhibitions have included bicycle displays and, most prominently, the work of Italian painter Giacomo Piussi, whose distinctive “pasta lady” has been featured on the menu, advertisements and on L’Hostaria’s walls for years.

Paussa’s large, frameless prints will be hung with wooden pushpins made by Gortan’s father, a fourth-generation furniture maker in northern Italy. The show will be on the walls at L’Hostaria through the winter. It will be unveiled at the restaurant’s 18th anniversary party Saturday, which will also have appetizers and wine on the house, with music from the Carbondale-based No Joes.

The local rock band, formerly the No Ordinary Joe Schmoes, comprised of Colorado Rocky Mountain School juniors, was formed in 2008 when its members were in middle school. The Joes won the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Band Battle four years in a row as middle schoolers and have since been regulars at Mountain Fair and on the local stage at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, while touring around Colorado (and last summer playing gigs beyond the state borders for the first time).

“We wanted a band from here,” said Gortan. “It’s fitting with the idea of supporting the community.”

Gortan was trained as a chef in Italy — beginning in kitchens in his hometown, Udine, as a teenager — and came to Aspen to serve as head chef at La Baita on Aspen Mountain. After two winters there, he opened L’Hostaria in 1996 with partners Christina and Dante Medri, focusing on Old World Italian cooking and atmosphere.

Gortan said he has aimed to make L’Hostaria a place where people don’t simply come to pay money for food and drink, but a welcoming gathering place with the spirit of wineries and restaurants in his home region, some of which have been running for as many as 20 generations.

“Nothing happened by chance for me,” Gortan said of the attention to detail and cultivation of community spirit at L’Hostaria. “The goal at the beginning was to have a restaurant like in Italy, where it becomes a historic place.”


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