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Meet the Chef: Jessie Ayala

There's something undeniably enchanting about the allure of Italian cuisine—the way it transports you to the sun-kissed landscapes of Italy with each bite, filling your senses with warmth and flavor. The central theme of great Italian food is a focus on a few local, high-quality ingredients that let the flavor really shine through.  This is Ciao Trattoria’s theme as well, nestled on 4th Avenue in Pasco, this culinary magic comes to life in every dish. 


The Maestro Behind the Magic


Meet Chef Jessie, the culinary magician behind Ciao Trattoria. Pictured here with his wife Susanne, the two are creating exciting experiences here in the local food scene.



His journey into the world of food began with a notion of taking a break after high school—Jessie laughs as he reminisces back on that decision, thinking high school had been so tough he needed a break - many of us can relate to those youthful perceptions of life. Little did he know this seemingly spontaneous choice would ignite a lifelong passion for the art of cooking. After his year long break, he joined culinary school where he learned the science behind ingredient pairings and fell in love with the concept of creating dishes that were not complex on ingredients, just complex on taste.  It’s the “secret sauce” that still really sets him apart.


Armed with a handful of high-quality ingredients and a generous dose of creativity, he concocts dishes that are as elegant as they are flavorful. Take, for example, his signature lemon pasta—a symphony of garlic, rosemary, parmesan, lemon juice, and butter that dances on the palate, leaving a trail of culinary bliss in its wake. 





Jessie’s wife Susanne is the perfect match for his wit. She has a great food palette in her own right and is a business wiz. Together they started a restaurant and catering business in Prosser, WA.  


Pivoting in the Face of Challenge


When Covid hit, they, like so many businesses in the food industry, had to pivot. Jessie had built a great relationship with local wineries and from there came up with the idea of offering prepackaged meals that would pair with their wines.  Wineries then offered these packages to wine club members and guests, and this became a big hit during those long months of Covid shutdown. 


The Birth of Ciao Trattoria


It was while working out of their food truck that they were approached by the owner of the building on 4th Avenue, Pasco. He wanted Jessie to open a restaurant there and thought Jessie's Italian dishes would be the perfect fit.  Jessie and Susanne were reluctant at first, wanting to stay focused on their catering business and food truck.  Add to that, the space wasn’t set up for a restaurant – it had been a shipping company office!  There were no appliances, no stoves or ovens, and it wasn't even configured for oven hoods...nothing! To turn this space into a restaurant would take some creative thinking and work! Again, their outside-the-box approach brought them a solution.  With some renovations, they designed a take-out only approach, prepping food at the commercial kitchen a few doors down and then finishing up for orders just like they do for their food truck. The only problem...customers loved the food so much; they wanted the full restaurant experience with it. A few tables and chairs out front that were meant for people waiting for their to-go orders were regularly used by guests to sit down and enjoy their meals....and then they started asking if they could make reservations! Susanne decided it was time to rethink their approach and embrace the full restaurant theme.  So, with innovative thinking and a touch of creativity, they turned limitations into opportunities, crafting a dining experience that exceeded all expectations. 




[Video credit: Visit Tri-Cities]


And while the space is small, the meals have the feel of a restaurant with 7 or 8 chefs behind the scenes – packed with taste and beautifully presented. They make all their own sauces using fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs, and high-grade meats.  Half of their pasta is made in-house.  The other half? Imported from Italy! Because, as Chef Jessie says, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients. 


Chef Jessie's Advice to the home cook


When I interview a chef one of the standard questions I always ask is "What is your advice to the home cook who wants to up their game?" I love getting those little tidbits of knowledge from the professionals. Chef Jessie's response "Keep experimenting, use fresh ingredients and don't be afraid to try something new.  Like truffles – actually a very delicious mushroom that is very earthy and adding it into ingredients like oil and pasta is a different flavor that just explodes. " Truffles...I had not even thought of trying that, but I'm going to now!


A Culinary Empire Expands


Every aspect of Ciao Trattoria reflects Chef Jessie and Susanne's unwavering commitment to excellence. And their culinary empire continues to expand with the addition of Pasco Burger Company, a brick-and-mortar take-out style restaurant just one block down from Cia Trattoria. And in March 2024 they will open Imbibe, an Italian style Cafe, with a standing coffee bar, deserts, breakfast items, and paninis. Thursday through Saturday Imbibe will transform into an Italian cocktail bar, serving beer, wine and cocktails.


A Taste of Italy All Year Round


Their creative ideas don’t stop at food.  During the summer months Chef Jessie and Susanne invite you to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Italian culture and cuisine with al fresco dining and entertainment called “Experiences in the Alley”. These events are like stepping into an Italian evening celebration. 


So, join us on this culinary journey and discover the magic of Ciao Trattoria for yourself. Follow us on social media (@ciao.trattoria @experience46degrees) to stay updated on our latest offerings and events.


📌Ciao Trattoria, 112 N. 4th Ave., Pasco WA


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