Cugino's owners find character in Eighth Street building

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Jeff and Danielle Hubler think Cugino's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant can grow and prosper in a remodeled brick building that already has had half a dozen lives at 41 Eighth St.

The Hublers purchased the yellow brick building across the alley from Antares restaurant and hope to move in as soon as May 15, but certainly by mid-June.

Before the 58-year-old building could be remodeled to house a family-style Italian restaurant, crews from Fox Construction had to remove an old jail cell. The building also has housed a dairy, a hotel, city hall, a private primary school and a children's museum.

Former tenants will not recognize the place once construction crews, architect Keith Kelly of Charles Cunniffe Architects and designer Traci Clark of Finial are finished with the project.

"We want to maintain the cozy family restaurant we have now, and not change into a big, sprawling restaurant," Danielle Hubler said. "After all, we're still going to serve cheese steaks and pizza."

The Hublers have a loyal following at Cugino's current location on Oak Street. But the tiny restaurant doesn't afford space for an entry foyer, and the bar is upstairs. The new location will double seating capacity in winter and provide abundant outdoor seating on a new south-facing deck that affords views of historic Howelsen Hill.

The bar itself, which will be moved across town from Fedora's at the present Cugino's location, will be enhanced with a pass-through to the deck that also has views of the ski jumps at Howelsen.

Clark said the exterior of the building will complement the historic yellow brick with the use of terra cotta paint and dark wood lintels over the new windows.

The lintels will be repeated on the interior. It's clear Clark and Hubler have similar design sensibilities; they fought to keep the rustic red brick on an interior wall that will become part of the "grotto" section of the dining room. In contrast to the grotto, the front of the dining room will have high ceilings dominated by a large plaster fireplace. The windows facing Eighth Street are deliberately tall to take in surprising views of the Steamboat Ski Area down the alley to the east.

Jeff Hubler said he expects to get a big boost from walk-in traffic at the new location. The old restaurant seats 50 when the outdoor tables are included. The new restaurant would seat 60 indoors and offer more attractive outdoor seating.

"The fabulous thing is the Hublers are taking this old building and refurbishing it instead of tearing it down," Clark said. "It's a lot harder, and it's a lot more complicated from a design and construction standpoint."

The refurbishing of the new Cugino's building will change the streetscape in that section of Eighth Street. The Hublers originally intended to retain the existing indented parking in front of the building. However, Jeff Hubler said in cooperation with the city of Steamboat Springs, they agreed to build a new sidewalk that would improve the pedestrian connection between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street while presenting consistent street-front parking.

The Hublers also recognized an opportunity in the fact that the property is zoned to allow residential as well as commercial buildings. They are building a new 1,700-square-foot residential condo above and to the rear of the kitchen. It will not be sold, but retained as part of the business, possibly serving as housing for a key employee, Danielle Hubler said.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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