There is a wonderful song by the late Peter Allen, “Everything Old is New Again.” One could say that about the just-clinched deal for Grazie Café Italiano at 823 Grant Ave.
In a far-ranging interview, the owner of the building, David Price Jones, said that a lease has been signed with former restaurant owner Renee Norman. Jones owns the stylish corner building at Sherman and Grant avenues with his wife, Patricia Kay, and former Novato dentist Charles W. Almgren.
Norman has negotiated a deal with to assume the debt for equipment owed by former owner Deborah O’Miela, who . The time remaining on the lease, according to Jones, is five years with two five-year options.
Norman, who owned the 70-seat Grazie from 2004 until she sold it to O’Miela 2008, said, “Everyone from Kim Kaselionis of Circle Bank to David Price Jones worked to make this work and assure it was fair.”
At this point she has almost all of her original employees back, including her chef, Jose Vargas. More familiar faces will be expected back before she reopens in mid-May.
“We will present the same exact menu, with a couple of new salads, a vegan dish and a gluten-free dish, plus sandwiches which can be ordered in lettuce wraps, instead of bread,” she explains.
Norman will also honor all outstanding gift certificates and will reward the certificate holders with a free dessert.
Jones, an attorney, spoke at length about the history of the site. Around the turn of the century the building housed the Hamilton brothers’ store. Jones says he has a picture of that historic structure hanging in his office.
It was just a lot when he the trio purchased it in the early 1970s. After the building was built, it housed Old Towne Photo and then a Tully’s Coffee shop.
Michelle and Dave Whiteside originally opened Grazie in 2003. Renee Norman, who had been the manager, bought out the Whitesides in 2004. She operated it to much success until she sold in 2008 to Deborah O’Miela.
Some locals think that after O’Miela bought a bar, Spanky’s in Rohnert Park, Grazie took a slide in mid-2010. In January she brought in the furniture and put up a closed sign.
Now both Norman and Grazie will be back — a win-win for Old Town and Novato.