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Sabataso Family Invests in Center Street

Taso on Center is an eclectic new addition to downtown

By Lauren Fabian | April 30th, 2019

The Sabataso name is not one that goes unrecognized here in downtown Rutland, and with good reason.

The founders of The Palms Restaurant on Strongs Ave began serving up delicious Italian food in 1933. The family owned and operated restaurant is a celebrated staple in downtown, and Jay Sabataso found himself lending a helping hand at the age of 12.

“All of us worked in the family business. I worked all through high school and washed dishes when I was in like 4th or 5th grade for $2.50 a night. I thought it was big money,” Jay said with a grin.

The rear dining area of Taso on Center in Downtown Rutland, Vermont.

The rear dining area of Taso on Center in Downtown Rutland, Vermont.

Although Jay left the restaurant industry to work in the medical field for 21 years, he bought the Palms Restaurant from his uncle in 1986 when he realized his true passion lie in the restaurant industry.

Jay now owns and operates three restaurants, The Palms in Rutland alongside John and Jerry Sabataso, and two others alongside his wife Audrey Brandt. The couples most recent endeavor, Taso on Center, opened in February 2019. Inspired by the downtown district, they wanted to invest more in keeping business local to the area.

Owner Jay Sabataso (left) and Head Chef Jeff Saunders stand in Taso on Center.

Owner Jay Sabataso (left) and Head Chef Jeff Saunders stand in Taso on Center.

Although all the food is delicious regardless of where you go in Rutland, the diversity is limited. The Palms fills the Italian niche nicely, so the couple explored other options not typically available downtown.

Jay’s favorite dish may be spaghetti, but “Taso on Center has everything but Italian food,” he said. “Our menu is always changing and evolving. We have international foods like Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes, and we are trying to be authentic as possible.”

The restaurant fills a much needed gap in Rutland for international dishes with their ramen bowls, fish tacos and pot stickers, while offering some traditional American dishes with a twist.

“I want Taso on Center to be living and breathing and changing every week. I want to make sure we can keep it interesting,” Jay said.

Jeff Saunders, the executive chef who oversees all the menus, is the creative soul behind most of the menu items. Jeff and Jay work together to create their ever-changing menu, and Saunders is able to take them to the next level.

“I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for at least 40 years, and with Jay for the last three. He’s great to work with and we try to keep the food seasonal while using the freshest ingredients possible.” Saunders said.

Taso On Center offers eclectic atmosphere and 20-seat bar area to go enjoy a drink with friends before a show next door at The Paramount Theater or a casual night out on the town.

Jim Sabataso bartends at Taso on Center in Downtown Rutland, VT. Photo credit:  William Jalbert

Jim Sabataso bartends at Taso on Center in Downtown Rutland, VT. Photo credit: William Jalbert

Co-owner Audrey Brandt is the mastermind behind the brand and atmosphere at Taso on Center, as she created the color schemes and did the entire decor of the restaurant.

Audrey’s choice of corrugated steel, reclaimed wood, rich navy walls and local art contribute to the cozy-yet-hip vibe of the interior.

The couple first collaborated in business ownership in 2015 when they opened the Palms at Prospect Bay in Bomoseen. The seasonal restaurant on the lake draws in a different audience than The Palms in Rutland — people go there as a destination. The Palms at Prospect Bay features a similar Italian menu and an outdoor patio, where customers can sit by the fire with a drink in hand while enjoying live music on weekends.

The Palms on Prospect Bay will open for the season at the end of May, where Jay and Audrey will find themselves working to find a balance between running the restaurants together and keeping family central in their lives.

And just as the Sabatasos have done in the past, the businesses are a family endeavor. Jay’s brother, Jim, works as the bar manager and contributes to the functionality of all three restaurants while and Jay’s son Christopher helps with the prep work for the two downtown restaurants.

A spruce infused maple cedar plank Arctic char, one of the specials at Taso on Center.

A spruce infused maple cedar plank Arctic char, one of the specials at Taso on Center.

Jay’s son Michael supports all three restaurants by enjoying the delicious food and bringing a friendly face and inviting personality to the bar. While Audrey’s two daughters, Ali and Christie, often work as waitresses at the Palms at Prospect Bay.

“The Dome,” a mini-head of iceberg stuffed with bacon, caramelized onions, blue cheese and oven dried tomatoes.

“The Dome,” a mini-head of iceberg stuffed with bacon, caramelized onions, blue cheese and oven dried tomatoes.

The couple says having family around is what makes the experience even more enjoyable and enables them to be both good business owners and parents.

“Having key people in key roles is important. You are only as good as the people that are around you. We try to hire good people and in return can have good things happen,” Jay said. “My favorite part of being a business owner is creating an atmosphere where people can go in and enjoy themselves.”

Jay Sabataso brings a different and unique meaning behind what it means to be part of the community in downtown Rutland. He not only finds success, but invests in the needs of the area when running his businesses — keeping the Sabataso name known for generations to come.

Taso on Center will celebrate Cinco de Mayo this week with “Taso goes Loco,” a four-day Mexican food takeover event featuring dishes like chicken mammaladas, a shrimp fajita salad, and tacos. Frozen margaritas and Mexican beers will also be available to compliment the fare.

For more information about Taso On Center, visit their Facebook Page or Instagram, or stop in for a bite to eat at their location on 22 Center Street.  For information on The Palms Restaurant, visit http://www.palmsvermont.com/ .

 
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