Eric Earnest, owner of CFP Cafe in Chateau, had a lifelong dream of owning a restaurant. Sometimes, he has to step back and realize he’s actually doing it.
By Atiya Irvin-Mitchell
Photo: City Fresh Pasta Owner Eric Earnest shows off the CFP food truck. Courtesy of CFP Facebook
When Eric Earnest, the owner of City Fresh Pasta—now rebranded as CFP Cafe—was a middle school student, he, like many kids, was pushed to think about his future. He did job shadowing at a law firm, a doctor’s office, and a restaurant. He already had fond memories of cooking with his mother and grandmother, but during his restaurant visit, Earnest connected with the creative and relaxed atmosphere of the place the most.
“They smiled a lot more and they laughed a lot more during their job than the other two places that I’d visited,” Earnest said. “So that kind of made it click for me… that the restaurant business and the restaurant industry was just more of a fun atmosphere and something that… you could have a little bit of leeway in and it wasn’t so strict and rigid… That sealed the deal for me on the restaurant business.”
Nearly 30 years later, Earnest’s lifelong dream of owning a restaurant himself was realized in the form of two restaurants, in Bakery Square and Chateau, respectively, and a food truck.
Founded roughly in 2014, Earnest boasts that CFP fills a previously existing void in the fresh pasta market in Pittsburgh by providing competitive prices and ensuring all the food is homemade and fresh daily.
With its four and a half star Yelp rating, it’s safe to say since its inception, CFP Cafe has been well-received by the city. Yet, like a lot of local businesses, it hasn’t been immune to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, both of CFP’s locations were forced to close their doors. The food truck—currently shut down for repairs—was what the business relied on more than the brick-and-mortar: It ran five or six days a week from March 2020 until this past Thanksgiving.
“The food truck was my main source of income, definitely through the pandemic,” Earnest recalled. “…Even afterwards, I did better on the food truck than I did at the restaurant, as far as sales goes.”
In the midst of all the turmoil, Earnest was still tasked with moving his business from Nova Place to the Chateau location on the Northside. The move to Chateau had been a long time in the making, but like with most things, COVID-19 complicated the matter.
“I had already acquired the [Chateau] location, but to actually open up in November of 2020 during the lockdown was a bit—it was a bit of a reach for me,” Earnest explained. “It was a big struggle; take out only [and] nobody was really in the shed—[in the] building, I mean, as far as employees or workers—so I was kind of just drawing off of the local light industry, people who were still out and about working.”
Still, Earnest is looking forward to continuing to expand his business in the near future. He wants to open up another two locations within the next three to five years.
One family-oriented project Earnest said he’s looking forward to in particular is opening a vegan restaurant with his eldest child. Earnest notices a demand in the market and an opportunity for creativity in vegan food.
“My oldest kid and my middle daughter are pretty much vegan, for the last, I don’t know, a year and a half, two years,” Earnest explained. “It’s very difficult to find and locate a vegan restaurant. I know they’re pretty slim pickings, so I feel like there’s definitely a need or a want in the market for another style.”
The post-2020 world remains unpredictable, but Earnest is grateful for the success he’s had so far and continues to take pride in his work.
“It’s all been kind of a whirlwind on how quickly this thing has taken hold,” Earnest said. “And sometimes, I gotta stop myself just to realize that, you know what, this is exactly what you have always wanted to do. And now you are doing it.”