Auntie Pasta’s has new owners; but menu unchanged

TRAVERSE CITY – Auntie Pasta's Italian Cafe in Traverse City has new owners. Wife-husband team Lyndsay Hicks and Tariq Javed took possession of the restaurant in early March.

Both have hotel and restaurant management backgrounds and worked for the Marriott Corp. in Washington D.C. before relocating to Traverse City. Hicks was GM of the 300-room Crystal City Marriott before being transferred here as the manager of the Marriott Courtyard on South Airport Rd.

Schelde Enterprises, based in Grand Rapids, was the previous owner of Auntie Pasta's. Scheldes has expanded around the state with more restaurants, bringing the total to 16. Because of these statewide expansions and the overexposure of their operations in Traverse City, consideration was given to downsizing in this area. So, Scheldes listed Auntie Pasta's for sale three years ago, when they opened TraVino.

"We have the same Mediterranean concept at TraVino," Howard Schelde said, explaining another reason for the sale. "This will enable us to put more effort and emphasis on TraVino."

Schelde and Barry Haven, president of Schelde Enterprises, worked with Hicks and Javed for 9 to 12 months to finalize a sale.

"It took awhile to find the right buyer," said Haven.

Growing up in Alma, Mich., Hicks liked the lifestyle of northern Michigan and wanted to move her family, which includes two sons, back to the area. She received her degree in Business Administration and Hotel Management at CMU, while her husband received his education in Pakistan. Although his education was business accounting, he has spent the last 30 years in hotel administration.

"We moved up to northern Michigan with the intention of getting into our own business in the hospitality industry," Hicks said. They were looking for a hotel/motel or restaurant, but fell in love with Auntie Pasta's when they saw it, feeling it was a perfect fit for them.

"Managing a large hotel is hands on and fun, but a lot of hard work," Hicks admitted, hoping the restaurant business will be a change for the good.

They plan to do some cosmetic changes by freshening and upgrading the decor. They are also thinking of redesigning Zio's, the area featuring pizza in the front of the restaurant.

The menu, however, will stay the same. Along with the purchase of the name and logo, Hicks and Javed obtained the recipes. Auntie Pasta's menu features homemade items. Customers' favorites include the house salad bowls with basil vinaigrette, the seasoned tomatoes and marinated olives that go on the salad, the freshly-baked bread topped with Auntie Pasta's own seasonings, the crab artichoke dip appetizer and the fettuccine alfredo with chicken and broccoli.

"Auntie Pasta's recently won first place for vegetarian chili at the Downtown Chili Cook-off," Hicks remarked. "We plan on entering more community events."

They were also voted "Best First Date" restaurant by Northern Express readers.

Auntie Pasta's 30-some employees stayed with the new owners, though former GM Lynn Blanchard is now managing TraVino.

Auntie Pasta's wasn't the first restaurant at its location. Built by Max Wysong, the original restaurant was called Under the Willow Tree. During the Schelde period of ownership, the restaurant formats included first the Wanigan, then Schelde Grill and Spirits and Jose Babushka, before becoming Auntie Pasta's approximately 15 years ago.

Contact Auntie Pasta's at 231-941-8147.