Popular Divide Eatery Adapts to Coronavirus Pandemic Era
~by Trevor Phipps ~
Once the coronavirus restrictions loosened locally, McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub in Divide decided to make a big change and hire a new executive chef from a famous restaurant in Colorado Springs.
Shortly after the restaurant opened its doors for dine-in service, Larissa Vendola, formerly the executive chef of Garden of the Gods Market and Café, took the reins of the kitchen at McGinty’s.
Vendola worked at the Garden of the Gods Market and Café for the last 12 years, where she participated in all aspects of the business including helping create menu items and opening new locations. She made the decision to switch restaurants after her family recently moved to Woodland Park, and she was ready to take on a new challenge.
Vendola has a vast amount of experience in the restaurant industry, as she started her career during college working as a supervisor for a restaurant inside Colorado State University’s food court in Fort Collins, called “That’s a Wrap.” While there, she got school credit for running the restaurant and coming up with menu items as well as drafting their employee handbook.
Vendola graduated from CSU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management. She then continued her career working at a restaurant in Boulder as a front house manager before deciding to attend culinary school.
The chef then attended a culinary program at Cook Street in Denver, where she studied classic Italian and French cuisine. During her six-month culinary program, Vendola had the chance to study in Italy.
After graduating from culinary school, Vendola, started working for Garden of the Gods Gourmet in Colorado Springs where she grew her passion for creating culinary masterpieces. “Providing people with food and bringing them together over food is why I
have always loved hospitality,” the chef said. “And that is probably why I just fell in love with cooking. To me the good part of being a chef is not just cooking the food, but being able to bring people together with it.”
Vendola said that her favorite types of dishes to cook are Italian food and anything with green chili. However, Vendola does not plan on bringing about any major menu changes to McGinty’s.
“This is Tracy’s(McGinty) business and her theme is an Irish Pub, so I have to work within that paradigm,” Vendola explained. “She does want menu changes so we are working on changing the menu but within her concept. She wants new things and I think I can bring some fresh items to the menu but it will still be in that Irish pub theme.”
Vendola did say that the restaurant has made changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the menu is currently simplified in case the business has to switch back to only producing to-go orders.
“Tracy and the people that own the property have done things that were smart, permanent changes,” McGinty’s new chef said. “They installed handless sinks and handless air driers in the bathrooms and instead of menus we have QR scan codes on every table.
They also have the building sanitized once a month so I think you are going to see more money going into sanitizing and cleaning across the entire restaurant industry.”