The first time I visited Walla Walla, WA I was 17 and was already planning on attending college there in the fall. My mom and I had driven the four hours out from Portland for a drama scholarship audition (I was still working on memorizing the monologue during the ride. I did not get the scholarship). We checked into the local Travelodge and went off to find dinner.
This was the spring of 1997, before the wine industry started gaining attention in the area and long before the New York Times had ever heard of Walla Walla. The options were slim. We turned our noses up at Clarette’s (a family-owned Denny’s clone), Burger King and the various taco trucks dotted around town and ended up parking in front of the Pastime Cafe. Down at the far of Main Street, the Pastime proclaimed it’s name and cuisine in bold, red neon letters.
We walked into the diner-like section (where we would end up having breakfast the next day) and were waved over by the elderly waitress with nicotine stains on her hands, who sat us in the half-empty left-side dining room. I don’t remember what I ordered, although I know my mom got a turkey dinner. The food didn’t matter nearly as much as the time capsule-like experience we had by eating there. Pictures of the family who had owned the restaurant for over 70 years, as well as their friends and customers, lined the walls. They stretched down the hall that lead to the bathroom, and several were even hung next to the paper towel dispenser. We asked our waitress a few questions about the pictures, which led her to promise a tour of the restaurant’s history once we were through eating. She was true to her word and walked us around the dining room for at least twenty minutes, giving us the abbreviated history of the Pastime.
While I didn’t eat at the Pastime much when I was with my friends, my parents and I made a point of eating there everytime they came to town. Last fall, when I went back to Walla Walla for my reunion, I stopped in, primarily to take the picture of the Spaghetti and Meatball clock you see above. I asked permission to take the picture and it was given enthusiastically. The waitresses put down their cigarettes, asked me if I liked history and proceeded to take me into the bar, to show me yet more pictures of the Pastime’s history.
I found out last night that the Pastime closed last January. Some family friends were taking a trip through Walla Walla, knew it from our description and were surprised to find it no longer existed when they drove by. My mom called me to break the news, in a manner that one would normally reserve for the death of a family pet. We talked about how everything has a lifespan, and how grateful we both are that we knew Walla Walla in the days when it was still funky and laden with remnants of prior times. I’ve spent the day mourning the fact that the Pastime doesn’t exist anymore and hoping that the Spaghetti and Meatballs clock has found a good home.
In my search for details about the Pastime’s closing, I stumbled across this blog entry, which I though told a nice story about it.
Thank you for mentioning my blog entry about the Pastime. That is a lovely picture of the clock and with your permission I would love posting it on my site and of course giving you permission with a link back. I think you have done a terrific job of telling the story of the Pastime, as well. Thanks again.
I love that you had developed a relationship with a diner. I’d have mourned it’s passing, too.
I love this story. It takes me bake when I worked for Louis & Frank Fazzari. I started working for them in 1973 stocking shelves for cigarette machine money. I used to love it, as I eould leave with a pocket full of nickels, dimes & quarters. Eventually, I quite working for them in 1987 and moved on to become an executive chef years later. Ironically, I now own my own business, and my primary competition is thier cousins restaurant, Fazzaris in clarkston, WA.
I have so many fond memories of growing up in this diner I can’t hardly begin. It was truly a sad day when I heard that it was closing. From Franky & Bertie in the bar,Doris & Rosie Basta (started working in the 20’s) in the kitchen, Rosey and Mary in the dining room and even Betty in the coffee shop, I miss the genre. I am currently trying to create the same environment, so hopefuly one day my son, and his can take over the business and create a genre of our own.
My husband and I attended a wedding in Walla Walla last weekend and visited the Pastime Cafe. We had lived in Walla Walla for two years 35 years ago and the Pastime was our favorite restaurant. Just to reassure you, the Spaghetti and Meatball clock is still on the wall in the empty restaurant. In fact, everything is still in the restaurant even the pink booths. The only things missing are people and food! My favorite dinner was Spaghetti and deep-fried shrimp. I also loved the ice cold Cokes served in the can with a straw! My husband loved the Spaghetti and Meatballs and the milk shakes served in the stainless steel mixer cup! My favorite patron was the chimney sweeper who had giant black pores in his face. Memories! It was sad looking at the empty restaurant. I’ve learned that K Vintner Winery has bought the restaurant. I hope they do a good job of re-opening it.
NOPE STILL EMPTY
It is nice to read other peoples memories of The Pastime and how it impacted their lives. I grew up there as my Grandfather was Frank Fazzari. I guess I lived inside those walls for 18 years of my life. When the restaurant closed it was like another member of my family passing away. Thank you for sharing your memories!
It truely will and always be missed, worked there forever it seems, my Mom Margie, my Aunt Betty. And Annie, Michelle, Myself, oh yes, lil Mary . Many have past on, but the memories will stay. Thank you all for REMEMBERING THE FAZZARI’S AND ALL THE STAFF. NANCY
According to my aunties and uncles, the Pastime was where my grandpa, Guiseppe Basta, hung out, drank, smoked toscano cigars and played cards. I visited the Pastime several times before it closed, hanging out at the bar and occasionally having a meal. When I moved my elderly mom from Walla Walla to Florida, we had a meal there on the afternoon before we left. The food was always wonderful; familiar family tastes. I was especially fond of the fried salami as a add-on to anything. It was a magic place in my life. Thank you for the memories.
I am shocked to find so many people loved and had great history of my family’s dinner my father was the last owner of the Pastime. i was barely old enough to start busing tables a few years before it closed.. thank you for sharing the memories and love for the place i miss it dearly
Oh Amanda darling, I miss you girls so much!! I baby sat you and Nina for years, Your mom and dad were one of my closest friends.. I hope to someday hear from you to catch up. I wish you health, wealth, success in your future. Give your Mom and Dad loves from me and hugs and kisses to you and Nina
Wendy Gutierrez / Newland
Would anyone know the photographer that took the night shot of the Pastime’s neon sign that hangs in the dining room at Marcus Whitman hotel? I’ve looked at it for years whenever I’m in town but cannot read the signature of the photographer.
Enjoyed reading your blog
Sadly, I have no idea. So sorry!
I no longer live in Walla Walla, but I very much remember “The Pastime Café”. We use to go there and have lunch or dinner. It was a special place. My favorite was their hot turkey sandwich or bacuke halibut. so yummy. If I was to tell the truth I always had a crush on Bobby Fazzari, so handsome, great smile.
My high school best friend and I used to have lunches there. And my whole family would go for dinner on occasion. Loved the food and atmosphere.