It took practically no time to find a new tenant at the Main Street restaurant space after Whoopemup Hollow Cafe announced it had closed in February.
Corie and Ryan Konen had only owned Mama Mia’s Pasta Factory for a year, but had already grown out of the spot and were looking for a new location.
Today it opens at 13 E. Main St. with the new name Walla Walla Pasta Factory.
The journey that took more time than anticipated is the one that brought Corie Konen into restaurant ownership in the first place.
A native of the big island of Hawaii, she grew up learning her way around the kitchen from her family. Her grandfather’s tripe stew is a favorite memory, along with the pig head made by her father.
Still to this day she’s an observer as much as a cook. “I love to watch people eat,” she confessed.
Feeding people is what feeds her soul, and in the year since she became a restaurant owner one of the biggest sources of pride has been the family-like culture in her restaurant.
It was a long time in coming, her husband said.
Ryan Konen, a Walla Walla native who works in construction through Konen Rock Crushing and Koncrete Industries, met his wife in school when he was 19.
Corie was a stay-at-home mom for many years to be present for their oldest son. When he was born, he suffered a stroke and became epileptic. Now ready to graduate, his health is much better, the couple said. They also have an 11-year-old.
Corie joined the workforce in 2008, when plans were announced for Tiki Teriyaki Grill. Owner Patty Cordeiro was a friend of Corie’s sister-in-law, Nikki.
Nikki implored her to bring some of her island influence to the new restaurant. Over time, Mama Mia’s was added, and Corie took over as cook there.
Ironically, the Hawaii native was the lead on the Italian business, and the Italian owner headed up the Asian-style Hawaiian eatery.
That was until about a year ago when the opportunity to become owner arose for Corie.
The patio dining was expanded, a liquor license was added, and within six months the space had been outgrown.
“It got to a point where we were starting to lose business because we were turning people away,” Ryan lamented.
In the Main Street space, Walla Walla Pasta Factory promises the same familial atmosphere with a couple of major tweaks.
The freshly made desserts from Jan Taylor’s Indulge Dessert Co. will be available in a new dessert case. Lemon bars, white chocolate salted caramel cheesecake and tiramisu will be among them. They’ll be available in-house or with 24-hour notice can be purchased in full form.
Additionally, the fresh pasta made daily by Ann Knudtson will be available for purchase in retail servings.
The Konens imagine a place where guests can dine in a family-friendly environment, but also buy pasta to take home and prepare on their own.
The menu from Mama Mia’s — salads, sandwiches, flatbread pizza, and a massive array of pasta dishes: fettuccine, tomato fettuccine, linguine, pappardelle, radiatori, sriracha radiatori, jalapeño rigatoni and tomato fusilli, among others — carries over for the first two months.
Afterward, lunch and dinner menus will be introduced.
One significant change: the weekly lasagna nights will become daily occurrences. Lasagna will be on the menu daily, and also available in take-and-bake form.
The restaurant will operate with a team of 10.
“It’s food, family and friends — that’s really what it’s all about,” Ryan said.