By Kathy Montgomery | Photo by Paul Markow
In 2005, Aimee Novak took a trip to Europe that shook up her life and ultimately enriched the Prescott dining scene.
During her travels, she frequented bistros and osterias — small, casual eateries, with limited menus and small plates, where diners could enjoy a bottle of wine. The lingering memory of those alfresco dining experiences got the hair colorist and salon owner thinking about her career. The delicious result is Soldi Back Alley Bistro, built around a food cart behind Prescott’s historic Rudolph Baehr House.
Soldi means “loose change,” “beer money” or “dough” in Italian, Novak says. Her idea was to provide elevated food, but not necessarily gourmet. “We wanted to do creative and affordable global street food,” she says.
Novak built her BYOB slowly and in stages. She went back to school, completing the culinary program at the Art Institute of Phoenix. She commuted from Prescott, where she continued to work as a stylist. Then she found a food truck for sale and installed it behind the salon.
Novak’s father, a steel fabricator, built fencing and ironwork for an outdoor-dining space that Novak decorated with potted flowers and fountains underneath a colorful canopy of umbrellas.
She experimented with the salon’s clients, picking a day to cook and waiting to see who came back to eat. News spread by word of mouth until the eatery became so popular that Novak closed the salon and renovated the building, a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian built in the 1890s, for indoor seating.
A seasonal chef, Novak changes the menu weekly based on produce available at the Prescott Farmers Market or from Whipstone Farm in Paulden, and she posts current offerings at the beginning of each week on Facebook.
Lunch always includes a trio of mix-and-match street tacos and two sandwiches: one with meat, one without. Taco options might include Moroccan turkey, spice-rubbed chicken or ginger-beer-battered tofu. Sandwiches could be braised beef with corn relish and roasted poblanos, or an asparagus sub with raisins, feta cheese and chipotle dressing.
When fresh greens are available, Novak puts a salad on the menu. When they’re not, she switches to seasonal soups and Asian noodle bowls using root vegetables with gluten-free options.
The beautifully renovated salon feels homey and comfortable, with a central seating area and two smaller nooks: one with a couch and chairs overlooking a leafy front yard, the other with a table for six and a patio view.
With lunch well established, Novak expanded to include breakfast and a Friday happy hour, and now she’s contemplating her next steps.
For Novak and her happy customers, Soldi adds up to change for the better.
Soldi Back Alley Bistro is located at 111 Grove Avenue in Prescott. For more information, call 928-777-0444 or visit www.soldicreativecuisine.com.