Zola restaurant, one of the most highly respected chef-owned restaurants in Nashville, will soon close after almost 13 years in business.
Zola was chosen as the best restaurant in town in the Scene's 2009 Best of Nashville issue. Debra Paquette, a Culinary Institute of America grad, is Zola's chef, and her husband Ernie Paquette is general manager.
The two have decided to sell their restaurant and take a job jointly managing a Caribbean fishing lodge. They say they've had several job offers and haven't yet decided which island paradise they will select.
The chef came to Nashville from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and her husband grew up on the shores of Cape Cod. She said they've both been longing to get back to the ocean, and with their two sons grown, the time was right to take a plunge.
"You don't know what's on the other side until you go for it," she said. "I want to look out my back door and see the big blue."
Ernie Paquette was a professional fishing guide long before entering the restaurant business, and for 22 years he's owned South Harpeth Outfitters, which caters to local fishing enthusiasts.
The restaurant's last day will be Jan. 17. Along with their business partners, Rick and Vicki Bolsom, the Paquettes are putting the restaurant up for sale. The buyer can take it on either as a turnkey operation (space and equipment intact) or renovate it as a new concept.
Bolsom says the landlord, La Gasse Properties, is "completely open to a new restaurant and to negotiating a new lease." He said there have been several prospective buyers looking into the deal, but nothing firm yet.
Deb Paquette came to Nashville in 1981 and worked at several noted restaurants, including Bolsom's former eatery, Cakewalk Cafe. She was the original chef who launched Bound'ry in 1994 before returning to work with Bolsom as partners in Zola when it opened in 1997.
In praising Zola as the town's best restaurant, Scene restaurant critic Carrington Fox said: "With a menu of North African and Mediterranean delights delivered in understated elegance, Zola blends the timeless flavors of a desert oasis with the inventive whimsy of a modern metropolis."
Debra Paquette has trained many chefs who went on to success in other restaurants. She also has ardently loyal customers. One couple, she said, has eaten at Zola every Friday for seven years. She hopes all fans and friends past and present will stop by before Zola closes next month.