There are two best days in any restaurant owner’s life. The day they open and the day they close. I have experienced both. It had always been a dream of mine, since I was a very young man, to own a restaurant. Even my mother and father supported the idea and offered to work for me. Either, or the both, of them would have made excellent hosts. My restaurant was in Emeryville, in the shopping center where Trader Joe’s is located. I took over an old Hobbee’s and made it into a sweet little place. Actually it was kind of a big place which is maybe why I did not fare so well. I closed, not long after opening, because of a clerical error from my payroll service. Another story for a second bottle of wine. If you ever see me in the wild, ask me to tell it to you sometime. My heart is still a bit broken over it.
The second half of my lost love story has to do with the timing of the movie The Big Night. This movie, you will remember, stars Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci as a pair of brothers whose Italian restaurant is on the edge of failing. It premiered the same year I closed my place. Their big inspiration was to create an extraordinary evening and invite a well know restaurant critic to dine there, thinking a great review is all they needed to put them over the edge. In the movie, the meal was amazing, all of their friends had a great time, and the critic never showed. They closed their restaurant, their dream, and life moved on. I sat alone through the entirety of the credits before I could move again.
In looking for my next restaurant to review I happened upon a little shopping center restaurant that just might become one of my new haunts. Interestingly enough, it is a shopping center restaurant. Just last night I was reminiscing about a trip to Oahu where I happened upon a shopping center restaurant. It was simple place, could have been confused for an egg and pancake place because of the décor. The difference? The food that came out of the kitchen. The chef was from Germany and his food was amazing. I do not remember the dishes exactly but I do remember going back 2 or 3 more times for lunch and dinner. Never underestimate a shopping center restaurant became my new motto.
That being said, let me wrap up all this randomness up with a bow. Last night I had dinner at another shopping center restaurant, The Big Italian Pizzeria and Ristorante at 3335 Sonoma Blvd next to DeDe’s Discounts, of all places. So maybe now you can start to thread together the randomness which is this piece. The owner, Alex, is both charming and attentive. Originally from a little town, about 30 miles from Venice, he immediately took me in with his rich Italian accent. The menu is classic with an enjoyable number of options. I ordered Chicken Parmigiana which was served fresh from the oven bubbling on the plate. After I, judiciously, let it cool down I found the chicken to be tender and delicious. My meal also came with a side of pasta and a salad which I shared with my companion. She ordered the Cosa Nostra pizza complete with ample amounts of both garlic and anchovy. Wow! Yum!! I have not gotten back in my car since last night but I will bet that the air of garlic still lingers from my take away.
Dinner was lovely and I just had to take the opportunity to chat with Alex, if only for a moment. It surprised me to learn that he has been open for over 8 years. I am a Napoli regular, but now that I know where to find Big Italian I believe that I am going to mix it up a bit. Being a spaghetti and meatballs fan, I might just slip on over this weekend for a light snack. In any event, if you like classic Italian cooking served in a clean welcoming environment, I suggest that you stop in and say hello to Alex. If you are truly feeling game, order the Big Gun Pizza . . . I dare you.
p.s. Lately I have been privileged to share a little of my past restaurant experience with Nicole of Provisions. Talking with her has rekindled my desire to open a little place here in Vallejo. The more the merrier, right? I currently have an initial idea summary for a food truck pod in the City Manager’s office for consideration. (Some of the best places to open are controlled by the city.) If you think that this might be an idea that you like, feel free to drop a note of support to the Parking Division. Parking.Permits@cityofvallejo.net
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often