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Restaurants are Working Behind the Scenes

Updates on Mills Restaurant, Hamilton Cafe, Grazie Cafe Italiano, Fresh Choice, Southern Pacific Smokehouse, White Rose Ranch, La Piñata and Muscio's Italian Restaurant.

Sometimes it seems like everything falls into a holding pattern. That’s what it’s been like recently in the Novato restaurant scene. We’re hearing rumors of things that are in the planning stages, action going on behind the scenes, and projects in the works. But in the meantime, we — the hungry public — are left to wait and wonder until news breaks. So here is a status report to serve as an appetizer for rumbling tummies.

Mills Restaurant
Coming soon is the demolition of on Redwood Boulevard. The design for the new three-tenant commerical building has gone through all the appropriate hoops (including a controversial ) and was approved by the city council on Jan. 24.

Matt Holmes of the develoment team Novato Realty Partners wrote in an email that they are in the process of loan funding and permits and have a lot of “parallel paths in motion.” But, they are targeting April to start demolition.  I’ll keep you updated on that because it’s always fun to watch a building demo.  

As an aside, Matt Holmes is also a principal with the Retail West team that brought Novato the . Check out the Retail West website and read about Holmes in the best corporate bio ever written.

Hamilton Cafe
It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of the sad closure of the . But at the March 13 city council meeting, with Erika Lisa Schmdt-Peterson went through the consent calendar without a hitch.

According to the city staff report, Schmidt-Peterson is the owner of Picante Taqueria in San Rafael. Her co-operator Leo Correa was the executive chef at both Horizons in Sausalito and Guaymas restaurant in Tiburon.

Bob Oshetsky is a broker associate for Santa Rosa Realty and is the agent who worked with the city on the lease arrangement. Oshetsky believes that the new restaurant is about 60 days away from reopening. He says a couple of names for the eatery are still being considered and they are finalizing the menu. 

Knowing the attachment that Hamilton residents had to the former café, Oshetesky said he understands the need to reopen the community gathering place.

Grazie Cafe Italiano
Renee Norman says things are going swimmingly at , which closed in January 2011 and reopened five months later on the corner of Grant and Sherman avenues in Old Town. Norman originally opened Grazie in 2004 before selling it and later coming back.

"We have a five-year lease and a five-year option, and if I had to make a decision today on the option, I'd do it," Norman said. "We've worked really hard to bring this back, and I have an awesome staff. It's going well — better than I expected after 10 months. We're not going anywhere."

Fresh Choice & Southern Pacific Smokehouse
A brief note from the management at Vintage Oaks reports that there is no word yet on replacement restaurants for which closed in February and which abruptly closed in December.  

Links to Recent Reviews
Here are some Novato restaurants that were recently reviewed or mentioned by Bay Area food writers.

White Rose Ranch:  Located in downtown Novato, this take-out eatery offers Southern-style comfort food. The concept is simple — order ahead and then drop by and pick up your entrees and sides between 4-6:30 p.m. I tried the Tomato Pie and loved it.  Next on my list of things to try are the Coca Cola Beef Tacos. To see the weekly menu, go to www.thewhiteroseranch.com.  Check out their mention in the Marin IJ.

: There aren’t too many reviews that get me heading to the restaurant the next day, but the Marin IJ review of La Pinata on Wednesday had me stopping in for dinner Thursday.  The review used the magic word that I judge all Mexican restaurants by: tamale. 

Now, my gold standard of tamales is nearly impossible for any restaurant to meet or exceed — my mom’s homemade tamales. But I ordered the tamale and was pleasantly surprised. I gave my husband a sample and he did me proud.  When I pointed out that he had only a forkful of dough, the guy with Welsh and Romanian roots said, “I want to sample the masa.”  Without dissing his mother-in-law, he pronounced the pork tamale moist and flavorful. Ole! 

Make sure to read the full review.

: It only had its official grand opening on March 19 but the word of mouth on this restaurant was good all through the February soft opening. It was also mentioned in Inside Scoop SF but I didn’t agree with the writer who said the pronounciation of the restaurant's name is "moose-cho.” 

So I jumped in the car and headed straight to the source, owner Michael Dormer, who says the restaurant takes the maiden name of his grandmother and is pronounced “moo-she-owes.”  Say it fast and you’ve got right.

Marla March 23, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Tracey, Thank for your entertaining restaurant reviews and for keeping us posted on progress of new openings. We can't wait for a new Hamilton eatery! It is so fun to meet neighbors while dining al fresco on their wonderful porch.
Valerie Zabko March 23, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Thanks for the update. I'm still wondering where people are going to park around the old Mills site.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 24, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I recently had the veal saltimboca and the Cajun salmon at Grazie, and they were two of the best meals I have ever had.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 24, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I am very sorry to see Mill's close. It had become a Novato institution where I could meet friends every time I walked in. Its history back to being a Denny's in the 1960s made it that kind of meeting place.
JOHN MOISSANT March 24, 2012 at 09:11 PM
please run for mayor and clean up novato
JOHN MOISSANT March 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
i am in costa rica for my fith surgery, would like to see you running the place
Lou Judson March 29, 2012 at 05:14 PM
But he wouldn't be able to fire hispanics, would he? Is this THAT Jerome? Sorry, couldn't resist... <L>

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