The possibilities seemed endless when 22-year-old Gabby Garcia took over Pastabilities in Buffalo Grove in late 2019.
Longtime owner Mark Esposito handed the keys to the Wheeling resident and former manager, who was eager to carry on the eatery’s tradition of high-quality Italian food at reasonable prices.
But then the pandemic hit, followed by inflation, rising food prices and staffing shortages.
Now Pastabilities, 167 McHenry Road, has sold its last meal.
Garcia said she had planned to close her doors Wednesday, but her inventory was exhausted by the end of Tuesday.
“I really thought I could do it,” she said. “And it does make me sad to leave, because I really did love my job and the restaurant itself. But at some point, I have to know when to leave with a smile before I start leaving with a regret.”
Garcia not only had to pull the business through the worst of the pandemic and the loss of business it brought, but she also battled a severe case of COVID-19 that had her hospitalized for 1½ months.
“I was in a coma for five days and in the ICU for 27 days,” she said.
More recently, the restaurant has been dealing with rising food costs. For example, eggplant rose from $14 to $17 a case to as high as $45.
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In the end, with her staff consisting only of herself and two cooks, it came down to a choice between keeping the business running or “exhausting myself trying to maintain and juggle 500 jobs at one time.”
Although she has no Plan B, the 24-year-old Garcia now owns an entrepreneurial background that many older people would envy.
“This was always my Plan A, so right now I’m just taking it one day at a time and eventually everything will fall into place,” she said. “I have a lot of customers who believe that I am destined for more. And that is very reassuring and also very comforting at the same time.”
“I love what I did the last 2½ years. If anything, I feel like I’ve made Pastabilities better than what it was. And I will forever cherish this opportunity that I had and hope that one day in the future another opportunity comes along.”