Vision for vino: After deciding not to become an engineer, Stacy Schwarz purchased Cafe Vinoteca (3535 Fair Oaks Boulevard) this May.
Schwarz got hired as a cashier at 18, then moved up the ladder at Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse (2001 J Street). She had to choose between remaining in the restaurant business or heading to UC Davis to complete her degree in engineering. Then, James Wells told her he wanted to open a Pete’s in Woodland with her as the general manager.
“I was doubtful that I wanted to be an engineer, that I wanted to get out of being in a social atmosphere, to work for a corporation, to have bosses,” she said. “So because I had all of those doubts, it was really, really easy, to be like, ’This opportunity doesn’t come along for everybody—seize it.’”
After three years, she had developed enough credit to purchase Cafe Vinoteca with some assistance from her mother. Now, Schwarz will be running and co-owning the restaurant with her wife, Carla, whom she plucked away from a “corporate job” to learn the ropes at Pete’s before they both went to Vinoteca.
Schwarz sees her climb from cashier to owner as proof that the American dream isn’t “just a fable.” And with experience working as a line cook, a server and a manager, she understands each element of running a restaurant intimately.
“I get my hands dirty,” she said. “I’m not just bossing people around.”
At the moment, they’re employing a painter to freshen up the walls at night while they’re closed and planning to expand the bar from 9 seats to 15. Schwarz will keep the chef of 13 years, Arturo Ramirez, and add a brick oven to make Neapolitan-style pizzas.
“I love thin-crust pizza myself,” she said. “The brick oven crisps the pizza up and gives it a flavor you can’t get anywhere else. But I’ll still offer the thick crust for customers that want it. I’m a yes person.”
Couple closings: On Facebook, Magpie’s Ed Roehr announced that Nido (1409 R Street) closed on June 1. On the same day, Taka Watanabe announced that his second location, Taka’s Sushi (11773 Fair Oaks Boulevard), would be closing at the end of the month after 16 years of operation.
Remaining open: Magpie Cafe (1601 16th Street) and Yellowbill Cafe and Bakery (1425 14th Street)—both under the same ownership as Nido—as well as Watanabe’s original, Ju Hachi (1730 S Street).