Barnetts sell Mazzola's

New owner is a chef and restaurant consultant

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— Mazzola's Italian Restaurant and Lounge, a fixture in Steamboat Springs for more than three decades, has changed hands.

Tracy Barnett confirmed that she and her husband, Cooper, sold the restaurant to Rex Brice. Brice, who is the co-owner of Jitters coffee bar in Gondola Square with George Noyer, already has taken possession of the restaurant at 917 Lincoln Ave. Tracy Barnett will remain in a consulting capacity for an unspecified time.

Mazzola's first opened under the Mazzola family ownership in 1970. Seven years later, they sold the restaurant to Curt and Mary Weiss, who operated it for seven years before selling to the Barnetts. The Barnetts took over on March 1, 1985, Tracy said. Cooper Barnett previously had managed the old Sidestep restaurant for 17 years.

During their two decades of ownership, the Barnetts moved the restaurant from its original location next to the Sinclair station on U.S. Highway 40 to downtown Steamboat.

Cooper Barnett stepped away from the restaurant 18 months ago for a change of pace, Tracy said.

"Cooper and I are a really good team, but I was never the financial person," she said. "I worked the front of the house."

Cooper has enjoyed working in turf maintenance at Steamboat Golf Club and with Steamboat Resorts since stepping back from the restaurant.

The Barnetts enjoyed serving as campground hosts in the National Forest on Rabbit Ears Pass this summer and are looking forward to new opportunities.

Brice, who has worked as a chef in two fine dining establishments in Steamboat, has run Jitters for seven years. During that time, he was consulting for restaurants outside Steamboat. He specialized in menu and recipe development and operational systems for restaurants in seasonal resorts.

Brice said he hopes to bring Mazzola's full circle to focus exclusively on homemade, affordable family style Italian dishes. He said he is intent on offering "20 wines for less than $20" a bottle. He also plans to offer take-and-bake pizzas at a 20 percent discount from the dining room price.

The dining room will be remodeled in late October.

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