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Stramel one to watch

Red Vespa manager honors by state restaurant association

SOLON Krista Stramel didnt know where her path was.
For me, the hospitality industry gave me a lot of stability and really allowed me to figure out where I wanted to go in life and what my purpose was, she explained.
Stramel, 32, celebrated her third year as the general manager of Red Vespa, in Solon, with a nomination as one of 40 Women to Watch in Hospitality announced by the Iowa Restaurant Association.
The honorees were recognized Nov. 16 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines during the associations annual Celebrating Excellence Awards Ceremony.
The glass ceiling has been broken for a lot of women and they are succeeding in higher positions in business, especially in hospitality, Stramel noted.
I came from really strong parents who instilled in me that I can do absolutely anything as long as I have drive and determination, she said.
When it comes to women doing big things, she really wants young girls to understand they can do it, too.
A native of Cedar Rapids, she grew up in Iowa City and graduated from Iowa City West High.
Although she started her first job as a host at the Vine, in Coralville at the age of 16, she obtained a degree in human services and spent her first five years as a developmental adult coordinator.
But she found herself drawn back to restaurants.
It was something that I really liked to do, Stramel said. I liked being on my feet and in constant communication with people, rather than being stuck behind a desk. Im really outgoing.
She found work serving and bartending and developed a passion to learn all the aspects of the restaurant business, eventually moving up to house manager.
Thats when she found Red Vespa.
I remember walking into the restaurant for my interview and looking around the restaurant just completely fascinated, she recalled. After talking with Angie and Aziz, I was really, really hoping they would hire me, because this restaurant was definitely something I wanted to be a part of and I felt it was going to be home for me.
Aziz and Angie Longou opened the Italian restaurant in 2015 focusing on authentic Neapolitan pizza certified by the Associazion Pizzaiuli Napoletani and baked in a handcrafted, wood-fired Acunto Napoli oven.
Stramel was sold.
Italian is her favorite food, the Longous were awesome people and she knew this was the place she wanted to be.
I was super excited to be able to come into the restaurant and show my creativity and expand what Red Vespa had to offer, she said.
Shes been avid about having a fun wine list and cocktail menu and has developed a passion for infused simple syrups.
There are a lot of really good Italian-made wines, and part of Stramels goal is to entice the community to try them.
When guests come into the restaurant, we want to give them a really unique, warm, authentic Italian experience, she noted.
Aziz prides himself on providing a menu that reflects what you would find in the heart of Italy, she explained.
Close your eyes, take a bite. Youre there, is Red Vespas motto, she said. Any decision I make is with authenticity as a purpose, and I take that to heart.
Stramel learned of her nomination at the end of September.
This is the second year for the Iowa Restaurant Associations 40 Women to Watch in Hospitality list.
More than 100 nominations were submitted from across the state, and the honorees hail from nearly every segment and function in the industry from purveyors and entrepreneurs to chefs and business development professionals.
Stramel and the 39 others selected will be featured in Food and Beverage Iowa Business Quarterly, and a synopsis of each womans story will be hosted on the association website.
Stramel was thankful to the Longous, noting they allowed her to find herself and helped her grow both personally and professionally.
She also thanked her fiancé, Nicholas Zybarth, and her family for consistent support.
Hopefully, she said, the award will help put a new spotlight on Red Vespa.
This place is wonderful. I think we offer a really unique product, she said.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has hit the hospitality industry hard, she admitted, but restaurants have shown they can survive in turmoil, and Stramel is motivated to keep Red Vespa going.
Its just humbling the amount of support that Red Vespa gotten from the community, she commented. People are persistent with carry-out orders even when they dont feel comfortable coming into the restaurant. The people that do are coming more often.
Its wonderful to see people want the business to succeed, she said.
We really couldnt do what were doing without the support of this town.

Red Vespa
208 E. Main St.
Wednesday-Saturday: 4-9 p.m.
Sunday: 4-8 p.m.