“Eat well, live happy” are the words printed on the sign above Bistoro – a Mediterranean-style bistro located at 109 Central Plaza in Pueblo, owned and operated by Pellumb Dhamo and Joetta Ucar-Dhamo. Joetta attended high school and college in Pueblo, while Pellumb is a native of Albania. The couple met in Rome, and travelled and lived together in Europe for many years before moving back to Pueblo to raise their family and open their restaurant.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” said Joetta, “When I met my husband that was one of the first things we talked about was owning a restaurant. Pueblo wasn’t necessarily our first choice. But after travelling around and everything we’ve found, it suits a family lifestyle – we have a four and a five year old – so we’re kind of rekindling our love for Pueblo so-to-speak.”
Formerly known as Neon Alley Bistro in the Union Avenue Historic District, Joetta says business has improved at Bistoro since the change in location. “That was a beautiful location. And we dreamed a lot outside those cast iron gates. But it was out of sight out of mind for most people. It was incredibly hard to get people through the door. So we realized it wasn’t sustainable.” Bistoro’s new location at Central Plaza is closer to Pueblo’s Riverwalk area and downtown hotels – keeping it on the radar of locals and tourists. “It’s been much nicer,” says Joetta of the new location.
The restaurant is closed Sundays and Mondays, making Tuesday the start of the couple’s workweek at the bistro. Both are hard at work after the short weekend, with Pellumb preparing orders in the kitchen and Joetta greeting customers and taking orders. Light music trickles through the air of the cozy dining area dominated by a large bar top with classic black and white stools, with booths lined along the opposite wall. The ambiance of the whole place is quaint, cool, fresh. There is an intimate charm about it that separates it from the typical Pueblo eatery.
The signature menu item at Bistoro is the bocata, which is a Spanish-style sandwich. The bistro offers a selection of steak, pork, chicken or eggplant bocatas. The most popular dish, Joetta says, is a steak bocata topped with Pueblo chile. There is also a diverse selection of tapas (appetizers) as well as a broad selection of Rustic salads that offer farm-fresh vegetables instead of lettuce. So obviously, locally sourced ingredients are an important feature of Bistoro.
“Eat well, live happy is our mantra. Really what we’re about is putting those familiar ingredients that come out of our agrarian society here [in Pueblo] into all the different kinds of flavor profiles of the Mediterranean – that’s kind of what we know best,” says Joetta, “Basically to feature what you already know well in those simple Rustic recipes that have stood the test of time and been handed down mother to children for a few hundred years.”
Joetta says that the menu at Bistoro is a mix of her and her husband’s favorite dishes inspired by their experience travelling in the Mediterranean, as well as recipes that have been passed down in their own families for generations. “All of the Rustic salads are things you will find in any village whether you’re in Italy or Greece or Spain. You name it,” she says, “But, like the garlic bisque is definitely something that my dad perfected from what his mother gave him…And the Balkana salad and the Fieri sandwich – those are flavor profiles that are straight from his [Pellumb’s] family.”
The highest-priced item on the menu is only $10, which makes Bistoro an especially affordable dining option. Bistoro also offers a ‘light lunch’ special (also for $10) that includes half of a bocata with your choice of a cup of soup, salad, or tapa. I took advantage of the special to try the house Bruschetta Tivoli and what Joetta told me was her favorite thing on the menu: The Euskara, which is a pork bocata topped with piquillo peppers, sautéed onion and a garlic mayo aioli. “This is the kind of the classic sandwich you would get if you were going to watch the running of the bulls or something.” She said.
Bistoro doesn’t serve alcohol as of yet. But there are plenty of other drink options including local Solar Roast coffee, signature smoothies and cremosas – similar to an Italian cream soda. For dessert, Bistoro offers three different flavors of zupa (layered Italian dessert), four different flavors of cheesecake, and the borderline-sinful tullumba – fried pastries much like churros that are filled with caramel and served with balsamic-chocolate dipping sauce.
If you’re in the market for a new lunch/dinner spot where you can feel good about what you’re eating, absorb a bit of culture, and won’t break the bank, Bistoro is your place to go!
Bistoro offers catering and local delivery to the surrounding area. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, you can follow them on Instagram or Facebook, or call them at 719-696-9672.