Carelli’s takes home seconds as Best Lunch, Dinner Restaurant in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Carelli’s takes home seconds as Best Lunch, Dinner Restaurant in Moffat County

Local favorite receives Best Pizza, Sandwich, Italian Restaurant honors

The voters have spoken, and the result is "Viva Italia!"

Carelli's Pizzeria & Pasta repeated as the dominant force in Craig's dining scene, with five wins in the 2015 Best of Moffat County, again picking up Best Lunch, Dinner, Italian Restaurant, Pizza and Sandwich.

For owners Brett and Stephanie Etzler, in charge of the operation since 2011, it comes down to the customers who make things possible.

"Everything we put into it is for them," Stephanie said.

The Etzlers still have yet to make any drastic changes from when they bought the place, aside from adding some of their own touches, like an almost weekly rotating cycle of new microbrews, anchored by Dirty Hippie, from Palisade Brewing Company.

Good food and plenty of it remain the priority, and keeping some of the old favorites from before their time as owners, such as the award-winning DC sandwich, the significance of its namesake — Vice President Dick Cheney — remains a mystery to them.

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With fresh new pizza recipes here and there whenever the mood strikes — ranging from lox to a Reuben style with pastrami and Thousand Island dressing in lieu of sauce — Brett's culinary abilities as the head chef remain a selling point.

Last year, the restaurant opened a patio seating area, which the couple is looking forward to utilizing more and more this summer, bringing back their wine-tasting and beer events later this year.

Keeping it a place that's a good daily hangout is the kind of priority Stephanie wants.

"It's a really friendly place, we take care of our staff and they take care of our customers, so I think people get that vibe," she said.

Server Jordan Clark has been part of the restaurant's staff for nearly six years, her favorite part of the workplace being somewhat paradoxical: a sense of change that keeps things new, yet taking refuge in the steady stream of familiar faces.

"We've got a great customer base, it's good to see them, some of them every day," she said.

Even beyond Moffat County, the Carelli's name is starting to command respect. Several weeks ago, the eatery received an official Certificate of Excellence from Internet travel guide TripAdvisor for their numerous high ratings from diners.

Though they take the honor of Best Italian Restaurant as a badge of honor, the Etzlers also hope that the community realizes pizza and pasta are only part of their offerings.

"It's so much more than that," Stephanie said, noting the steak, salmon, tenderloin and other menu items that fall outside that classification. "We want everybody to see what the buzz is all about."

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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