Former ski racer opens Aspen shop |

Former ski racer opens Aspen shop

Janet Urquhart

Retired Italian ski racer Marco Tonazzi plans to open a little slice of Italy on the Cooper Avenue Mall next month.

Tonazzi is the owner of Valbruna, a high-end retail shop in Vail that specializes in Italian ski wear and casual sportswear for men and women. He plans to open his second Valbruna at 405 E. Cooper Ave. along with a panini – or sandwich – bar within the store.

Aspenite and friend Marco Gingolani, former manager at L’Hostaria in Aspen, will manage the small eatery at Valbruna, according to Tonazzi.

Tonazzi, who raced on the World Cup circuit for 10 years and then skied on the professional race circuit for seven more, opened up his Vail store in November 1998. That store does not have a restaurant component.

Valbruna, Tonazzi explained, is the small village of 120 people where he grew up. “There will be a picture of those 120 people in the store and in the bar,” he said.

“All the brands we carry are Italian. The food will be strictly Italian. The wine will be Italian only,” Tonazzi said. “It’s kind of like walking out of Aspen and walking into Valbruna – a little village in Italy.”

The restaurant, with seating for 20 to 25 people, will feature Italian coffees, wines and beers, along with snack-style foods, according to the liquor license application filed with the city. The idea for the panini bar, said Tonazzi, was “driven by my passion for coffee and Italian wine.”

The retail operation will feature two major Italian brands of clothing – Vampire 1950 and Napapijri, according to Ned Mataraso, national sales manager in Vail. In addition to sales at the Vail store, the business sells the brands wholesale across the United States. It supplies Performance Ski in Aspen with both brands and will continue to do so, Tonazzi added.

Tonazzi said he has maintained ties to Aspen since his skiing days.

“When I skied professionally and came to the United States, I spent my first winter in Aspen. . I always thought that someday I’d be coming back to do something other than visiting friends,” he said.

Mataraso said they hope to have the Aspen store open by Thanksgiving, though the restaurant operation probably won’t be up and running until mid-December.

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