A Proper Transition for the Pastime Cafe

I am always intrigued when a business swoops in and sets up shop in an old building. I find it fascinating to see what is done to shoot new life into the structure and, if lucky, what is done to pay tribute to the building’s past. You commonly see businesses transform desolate apartment buildings, deserted movie theaters, and rundown grocery stores all the time. The only thing better than watching the transformation take place is walking inside the remodeled building once the ribbon is cut.

News of an upcoming major transformation project hit close to home yesterday. I learned that the site of some of my best childhood memories would finally get a facelift.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the family restaurant. Named the Pastime Café, the place served the best Italian food in Walla Walla, Washington. Don’t think it was a short run. For over 80 years, my mom’s family operated the Pastime. That’s right. For over eight decades, the prominent but blue collar Italian joint on Main Street in the “town so nice they named it twice” thrived. The succession was nothing short of perfect. My great grandpa (Louie Fazzari) opened the place, passed it on to my grandpa (Frank Fazzari) who devoted his whole life to it, who in turn left it to my uncle (Robert Fazzari) who ran the restaurant until the last day of business in 2006.

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

My memories inside those Pastime Café walls couldn’t be much sweeter. Whenever we visited our family, we always dined there. My grandpa’s employees treated us like royalty and the regulars would always stare at us as we entered the restaurant and proceeded to a table in the dining room. After dinner we would go up to the front counter staffed by my late Aunt Becky and she would let us pick out a candy bar from underneath the giant glass case that boxed in the antique cash register.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture. This entire setup remained the same up until the restaurant closed in 2006.

Sometimes after dinner and before our candy raid, my grandpa would quickly take us back into the bar. Let me tell you, that was a different world! Shady looking characters and clouds of cigarette smoke filled the dark, long area. It was a 360 degree change when we would return on Sundays. The Pastime was closed on the Lord’s Day but my grandpa would always stop by to check on the place. He would take my siblings and I with him and give us full reign of the restaurant. In the bar we would have a ball picking up loose change on the floor, playing the video games in the back, and scratching off lotto tickets while sitting on the stools. We would run around the lounge and dining room areas, “play restaurant” at the cash register, and follow my grandpa into the kitchen where he would let us step into the gigantic freezer. Beautiful times.

The Pastime staff probably around the mid to late 1940s. My grandpa is in the back row on the far right. His brother (Art), who I also grew up around and who was extremely generous just like my grandpa, is standing right next to him.

The Pastime staff probably around the mid to late 1940s. My grandpa is in the back row on the far right. His brother (Art), who I also grew up around and who was extremely generous just like my grandpa, is standing right next to him.

This past January marked ten full years since the building at 215 Main Street was last operational. After the business closed, my uncle sold the place. In that decade span, ownership of the property shifted hands more than once but nothing ever materialized within those walls. The building that was already a throwback in the first place sat abandoned on a street corner in Walla Walla for far too long.

Yesterday my brother sent me a link to an article in Walla Walla’s local newspaper that said the wait would seen be over. Some visionaries have been hard at work creating Pastime 2.0. Well, to be fair, it won’t be a Pastime replica (there could never be another one anyway). But what is going in at the location is something that will carry on the proud tradition of the space while at the same time capitalzing on what Walla Walla is now known for: Wine.

This summer the Passatempo Taverna will open. The Pastime building will once again be a functioning restaurant and the parking lot in what we used to call “the alley” will be developed into a wine tasting room. Talented people have come together to represent each facet of Passtempto Taverna from the menu to the design to the wine. The project is in good hands. I could rest easy when I read the article and realized that the construction was done with absolute integrity and care. The discoveries made during the renovation fascinated me and the plans to keep around a touch of Pastime nostalgia encouraged me.

A look at the construction of Passatempo Taverna (photo courtesy of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin).

A look at the construction of Passatempo Taverna (photo courtesy of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin).

I am very excited to see more progress photos of the construction and then ultimately coverage from the grand opening. Of course one day I hope to visit Passatempo Taverna; it would be a very special moment. The Pastime building deserves to once again be a community gathering center and I am 100% ready for this new chapter to begin. Don’t Blink.

17 thoughts on “A Proper Transition for the Pastime Cafe

  1. Dear Brent, I would just like to finally thank you for such a positive response to our humbling project. Please give me a heads up if your in the area and I’ll hook you up with a tour or at least a little antipasto. Gracie tanto, Jim German 509 240 3321

    • Hi Jim – Thanks so much for the comment! I apologize for my delayed response, I got married/went on our honeymoon. Good luck as the project continues to move along, I love every bit about it. I am going to pass your contact information along to my mom (formerly Mary Fazzari…daughter of Frank, brother of Robert). She visits Walla Walla a few times a year and would absolutely love a tour of the place. Have a great rest of your week.


      • It could only happen in Walla Walla ! It’s the year 2021 and I just learned that there is another restaurant in the former Pastime Cafe. The local news paper, The Union Bulletin has failed us again. I get the paper every day, except Saturday, and I just now learned that a Italian restaurant HAS been open where the Pastime Cafe was for some time. I own a house on a 1/4 acre in downtown Walla Walla just 3 blocks from the old pastime and never heard a word about the new restaurant occupying the former Pastime Cafe. I ask myself why do I even bother getting this UNIMFORMATIVE news paper. To me I feel betrayed by the Union Bulletin. They have the gallon to call this paper with print on it “A NEWS PAPER”. They NEVER have anything new about the Walla Walla valley. I wish someone would buy it and return it to an informative paper this valley deserves. GET OUT OF OUR TOWN to the owners of that paper with print on it ! ! !

        • Hi James – Thanks for reading my blog post. I understand your frustration but I am a bit amazed that if your business is only three blocks from the Pastime that you have not discovered on your own (until now) that a new restaurant has been opened in its place for 5+ years.

  2. Beautifully written article! Loved the Pastime! I was so hoping someone would open an Italian restaurant that could continue the tradition there.

  3. Pingback: My Top Ten Blog Posts of 2016 | Don't Blink

  4. Pingback: MOD Pizza | Don't Blink

  5. Pingback: Celebrating My Grandma 100 Years After Her Birth | Don't Blink

  6. I spent The Summer of ’79 in Walla Walla & have Great memories of the entire town, and the people who opened up their lives to us ballplayers from around the nation. The PastTime was Always the place I’d mention, saying they had the Best Lasagna I ever tasted! True American/Italian Pride showed in their love of food, and making us brash ballplayers happy. Go Walla Walla Padres! ( yes, if you look back far enough, you’ll see I was the losing pitcher in the Northwest League Championship game vs the Bend Phillies)
    Thank You for a Great article Brent!

  7. Every summer from 1959 to 1965 my brother and I and about a dozen friends from Nashville Tennessee would hitchhike to Walla Walla to work in the food canneries,primarily Libby McNeill & Libby to earn money for school.Since we would hitchhike in pairs we would pick spots to try to meet up and the final meeting place was always the Pastime Cafe because the owner was kind to us and because my brother Frank played a lot of poker in the Pastime backroom. He said if there were not enough guys to make a game the owner would sometimes give Frank money to play with, to get s game started.
    We never ate at the Pastime since we were saving every nickel and dime for college (the canneries were unionized Teamsters and we could make 5x what we could make back home and lots of overtime- the schedule was 12 hours a day 7 days a week).
    Then in 1998 my wife and I drove across the country and stopped in Walla Walla.I wanted to see the old cannery but could not find it (long since torn down) and I could not recall the street it was on.(if anyone reading this knows the street or location,please email me at debate@comcast.net).
    On our way out of town I was thrilled to see the Pastime name still up so we stopped at the Pastime Cafe.I talked to the man behind the counter who said “I remember your brother from Tennessee.He played a lot of cards,sometimes with house money”. What a fabulous memory of 40 years earlier he had.
    Congratulations on such a great history for your family and your great restaurant.

  8. My mom, my aunt and my cousin all worked there. My mom worked for Frank for 32 years. Frank and Art were really nice. As kids we would always go there to eat, I can recall a elderly women always sitting in the front booth, and I remember Becky she was very friendly. There also was dining room that families would sit at. The dining room was where my mom worked. The only thing I didn’t like back then was the smoking. But the food was great, and everyone was so friendly.

    • Thanks so much for leaving a comment, Marlene. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences. You are right, the smoking was bad. I know my grandpa got a lot of pushback when they finally banned it throughout the restaurant but it was the right call.

  9. I worked at the pastime in the kitchen for eight years 1980-1986 I do miss the place I had alot of good times there frank and Robert were the best people frank was a very generous man thank you for opening that old building again

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Matt. During your time working at the Pastime did you have a favorite or memorable moment?


Leave a Reply