Family from New York takes ownership of Cugino’s

Audrey Dwyer
John and Sharon Gamradt recently took over the Cugino's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

— The taste of Italy doesn’t come from extravagant recipes or creatively titled dishes; it comes from the authenticity of the ingredients.

Or at least that’s exactly what new restaurant owners, John and Sharon Gamradt, believe and plan to do with the establishment they just bought — Cugino’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant.

“We want to start sourcing things locally because that’s what Italian food is all about and that’s why it tastes so good,” John Gamradt said.

It took the previous owners, Jeff Hubler and his dad, Charles, about 19 months to find the perfect people to buy their restaurant they’ve owned since October 1999.

“We held out for a long time in order to find the right people who could do the restaurant justice,” Hubler said. “With John’s experience as a classic trained chef and their enthusiasm, we thought it would be a good fit. They reminded me of my family.”

The listing for Cugino’s was through Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty and had a number of interested buyers for the $1.2 million listing.

“I think what it came down to was who had the experience of running a restaurant,” said Kathy Billington-Steinberg, a Realtor from Sotheby’s. “I’m very excited to see what they will do. I think it’s going to be good.”

On Dec. 15, Cugino’s welcomed the new owners from Queens, New York, who have no ties to Steamboat and had only visited the town once this past summer to look at a different restaurant.

Working in the food industry since age 13, John Gamradt’s background includes attending the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and working at posh restaurants in Manhattan such as Aureole and Allegretti, among others. He also was a minority partner with a high-end catering company, Cloud Catering, for three years.

“What I’ve learned is that there is a big movement toward simplicity, better ingredients and applying good techniques to what you are serving,” Gamradt said.

The menu of Cugino’s will be some of the same items, but with a different twist.

“I’m excited to see what he’s going to do to put his own twist on everything,” Hubler said.

Recently, Gamradt started making dishes with meat from Yampa Valley Farms and hopes to talk to Natural Grocers and other local providers to start using some of their produce, as well.

With a flair for East Coast cooking, Gamradt said the pizza will be Brooklyn or Neapolitan style. He hopes to use as many non-genetically modified products as possible, similar to a European style of cooking.

“If you use the right ingredients, you can do less to the dish to let those ingredients stand on their own,” he said.

A new concept the owners already have started is serving a complimentary dessert, which could be anything from homemade tiramisu, brownies, struffoli and eventually gelato.

“We give away our desserts because we want to say, ‘Here you go, this is on us, thank you for coming in,’” Gamradt said. “We want people to feel welcomed and comfortable.”

The new owners also will reintroduce a late night happy hour starting next week, serving unique Italian and European wines that can’t be found in other places across town. In addition, Gamradt said they soon will speak with local distributors to incorporate recognizable beers and wines to their list, as well.

“We want this to be the place everyone can come and just relax, whether it’s a special occasion or just to have a glass of wine and something to eat to catch up with an old friend or to meet a new one,” Gamradt said.

Looking for a slower pace and a location to raise their 3-year-old daughter, the couple wanted a more consistent daily routine and less stress from John’s catering schedule and Sharon’s schedule as an actress in the city.

They wanted to be part of a community and hope Steamboat will turn out to be the perfect spot.

“We are really excited about being here and becoming part of the community and getting involved in all aspects of it,” John Gamradt said.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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