Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Santa and Elves visit Pizzalina
We wish you a Merry Christmas from all of us at Pizzalina!  With much gratitude for making Pizzalina a thriving, vibrant part of the community and destination for great pizza!  I thank you all for your support, kind words and actions and most of all showing up and being part of laying the foundation for Pizzalina to grow and prosper!

I apologize for the halt in blog posts.  Suffice it to say, I've been too busy.  24/7 too busy.  By the time I get home, not only am I too tired to write, but the last thing I want to do is write about everything that has made me so tired in the first place!  It's like reliving the whole exhausting day.  I know I'll get on the other side of it, and I think I'll be able to at least post once a month from now on.  At least I'll try....

Tomorrow marks our three month birthday.  I can finally go from counting weeks to counting months!  I feel like a mom who sheepishly answers, "ten weeks" when someone asks how old her baby is!  There is something eirily like giving birth to a child in this whole process.  People keep asking me if I'll be opening another Pizzalina and in the back of my mind I keep remembering how I felt after my son was born, how I couldn't even think about another child for at least a year, maybe even two or three, and of course I never had another (child that is).  Pizzalina IS my second child, my baby girl (-lina).  So anyway, we are officially out of infancy now, and counting by months instead of weeks.  Can't wait already for the first birthday, that'll be a celebration!

It's been a wild ride, with many ups and downs, stressful, sleepless nights, long hours, too many days in a row, and I'm embarassed to say some aggravated, not so nice, tirades; all due of course to all of the above, plus some things I can't even mention!  Chalk it up to growing pains.  Literally.  We've gone through a lot in just three short months, and we've had to really get creative.  But I'm proud to say everyone at Pizzalina is working really hard to make it a great success, and I'm truly touched by the loyalty, commraderie and dedication already developed by our staff.

So I vow in this season of Christmas, when the whole reason of the season is about the greatest gift of all, LOVE.... to remember why I did this!  I vow to not get so tired and stressed out and worried over the small stuff, and have faith that we've got a great team that will build Pizzalina into the vision I was given and then some.  I will exercise my faith and not my fear.

Thank you again to all who've supported us.  May your holidays be filled with love and joy, laughter and lightness of being.  And if not, come on in and get some at Pizzalina, or at least a great meal, served with a smile!

 Now... Eat, Drink & Be Merry 
and here's one of my favorite Christmas songs for your holiday enjoyment!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Two Weeks +

I can't believe its been 2 weeks since we've been open!  SO much has happened and I've been working round the clock, no time to write.  What a roller coaster ride!  We've had almost everything thrown at us, and yet we've been busy, the reviews have been great, we're seeing repeat customers, everyone is gelling as a team and I'm happy.  I've never worked as hard in my life, but I'm happy, proud and fulfilled.  I'm so proud of our staff who've really all risen to the task at hand, and are working so hard to make the vision real.  WOW, I have to stop and pinch myself!

So in the first two weeks we've had a couple food and timing issues, our Internet music system went down, the power went out on our second Friday night (at 6:45 till God knows when), we had to shut down.  We spent the entire next Saturday trying to rebuild the financials and manually enter all the data.  I got called by the San Anselmo Police Department at 1am because our back door was unlocked (seemed the maintenance guys put a lock on our door without telling us or giving us the key!).  Oh yeah, had to deal with a horrible insect problem due to our neighbors dumpster being infested and located right behind our back door..... really?

But..... people are showing up and raving.  Kids are giving me hugs and claiming my pizza to be the "Best Pizza in the Whole Word".  Kids are drawing us pictures with notes of thanks and I even got a soccer tattoo from one admirer.  People are booking large parties, sending in their friends, buying gift certificates. and we already have "regulars".  I'm blown away at how well we are being embraced by the community and I'm overjoyed because this is just what I was hoping to create, an oasis of food, friends, people, and pizza, in our sleepy little town.  No one should have to get in their cars and drive to the city to have good food in a nice atmosphere.  You should be able to walk, bike, stroll and see all your neighbors and friends and kid's friends, and that's what's happening!

So is it worth it?  You betcha.  I've never felt more fulfilled.  I'm enjoying working this hard, I don't want to leave, this is my life, being a part of my community.  I look forward to each day to come back and work at this amazing place in the making.  I love working the pizza oven, making the dough, helping the servers, busing tables, listening to customers feedback, and when I close up shop at the end of the night, there's a little part of me that feels like I'm tucking in my baby to sleep for the night.

I remember watching the Steve Martin movie, Shop Girl years ago and thinking, "I want to be a shop girl!"  I think the movie, and that thought has stayed with me all these years.  Funny how that little seed planted in my mind, over the years, watered and tilled with experiences and time, has now come into full season.    I left the restaurant the other night thinking to myself, I am a shop girl.......

good night shop girl............

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blast Off

Hold on to your hats!  Pizzalina is open!  OMG..... what a week this has been!  I don't even know where to begin and its so late I really should be asleep (something I'm not getting much of these days).
Tuesday we had our Friends & Family (and those who worked tireless on the project) Party and then turned around and opened Wednesday for lunch.  I don't think I've ever been so stressed out in my life.  So many little things to coordinate and then my chef who had announced to me of his health problems the week before called me at noon the day of and informed me he wouldn't be able to make it to the party, or the opening!  PANIC ATTACK!  Luckily I had been putting out my feelers and called two chefs who I had been talking to to see if they could fill in.  Chefs to the rescue, literally!  I felt like the Calvary rode in when they got here at two pm.  I had deliveries stacked in the back door, cooks waiting for direction, looking at me like, what do we do?!  Oh, and that morning when I walked in the place wreaked of gas, I had to call my contractor in a panic.  Luckily they sent someone right over.  Seems the cleaners had turned off the pilots to clean but forgot to turn them back on.  Then the wine taps started acting up again.  Another call to the installer,  bad regulator.  Fixed in the nick of time.  Restaurant opening drama, its all part of the story you'll tell your grand kids, or any, hopefully kindhearted, sympathetic soul, you can weep on their shoulder over! 
So.... the party went off smashingly.  I actually really enjoyed myself, I started drinking champagne early which is the key to enjoying anything!  It was fun and casual and the staff did a fantastic job both the "front of the house" and the kitchen.  Everyone loved the food, the pizzas were awesome, and picture perfect, they all said the dough was a dream and we had a fantastic photographer who documented the entire night.  So I'll get those up as soon as I get them.  One chef did shine and he is my new chef for Pizzalina.  His name is Robbie Starr and he comes from Pizzeria Boca.  He is young, enthusiastic, creative, hard working, calm, and considerate.  Everyone on the staff has fallen in love with him so I'm grateful.  I kept praying, "Lord, send me the right person".  I guess it was destined.  Oh, there's more plenty more drama....... "the book".

Wednesday we opened with a bang and its been busy ever since.  Not too crazy busy, but just enough to give us all a little work out, test the systems, test us, test the food.  We've got a lot of kinks to work out, but I'm so happy, for the most part its going really well.  I actually got to cook on the line last night and tonight and I felt better than I've felt in days.  All the business part was driving me crazy!  The cooking was fun.

I thank you to all who've followed along on this journey.  There's still more to tell on the birthing of a restaurant.  There's the first year growing pains, post par tum depression, terrible twos...... Everyone said its like childbirth, you'll forget all about the pain when its over.  Not sure yet. 

I'll let you know.......

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Count Down!

It is really unbelievable how much has happened in a week!  The front is finally finished, with the exception of  the back ordered lights, we got our final inspection from the town of San Anselmo and started training on Wednesday.  So many little, last minute details, and new equipment to figure out.  It's endless and we've been working round the clock and there's still kinks to iron out, and things left undone for a later date.  You know its going to be hard, you know you'll be working your butt off, but experientialy, it's overwhelming!

We've got a great staff to start off with, although a little bit skeletal, I believe the crew we have are genuinely eager and excited to be a part of the building of a new restaurant.  As I told them, not everyone has the vision and bravery to take a risk on the unknown, and I applaud their courage!  I'm really excited to see the life that unfolds here.

Once again this week, God sent me an angel.... Patrick Coll from Marinitas!  He literally came to our rescue.  Seems a little birdie told him I could use some help and he emailed me the day before our training started and he said, "What do you need, I'll be right down?"  Patrick proceed to help us put the whole training schedule together, made up a large floor plan, brought it in on an easel, brought in coffee the morning of, made up signs, brought extra office supplies anything and everything we needed and just sat with us through two and a half days in case we needed anything!  He sent me someone to help with the kitchen and Jamilah Nixon from Forchetta/Bastoni in Sebastopol to help us with our new iPad POS system.  How do you pay someone like that back!  He said pizza and his friend said, "Pay it forward."

Angels number two and three..... Dan Donahoe from Silver Tap/Free Flow, and Tim Sciascis Brewer at Marin Brew Company, both came to my rescue when the tap system developed problems from a bad installation job.  It just so happens they were both there to train the staff and when they discovered the problem the immediately got on the phone, seeing as I couldn't handle one more blip in the road, and fought my battle..... angels, saints, they are among us!

As I told Pat Fusco from the Pacific Sun this week who came out to look at the place and talk about the process, the juiciest I'll save for my memoirs.  Let me tell you.......

Gotta love the restaurant business, it's very unique.  Please come by and check us out this Wednesday when we will finally open our doors.  And remember the secret pass word is "Angels".


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Well, its the final stretch.  Sprint, I should say.  There is so much to do, its insane!  I've lost it several times this week.  Breaking down into a fit of crying, swearing and heart palpitations.  Not necessarily in that order.

Last week so much happened I don't even remember.  Monday they put the first coat of stucco on the front, and we made pizzas!  Our POS was installed Tuesday and its a crazy new system that no one really has time to figure out.  We had our final post construction clean up Wednesday, and while they were cleaning the bathrooms flooded!  At least it happened now and not when we open.  (Please Father in the name of Jesus!)  Panic call to the Landlord and they got roto-rooter out, seems the place hadn't been flushed out in years.  Thursday we had our final with the Health Inspector and WE PASSED!  Just have to add some more lighting, that's a long story......  Fire Marshall gave us our final, now we must wait for the final coat of stucco (next Tuesday) and to dry for our final inspection with the Town of San Anselmo..... Whew.   We finalized the staff and got all the packets together.  Ordered all the paper goods, small wares, beer & wines this week.  Now it all comes in. 

I have a band of angels watching over me.  Literally-physically and literally-spiritually.  I would be DOA if it weren't for my dearest beloved friends who rallied to my call this weekend and made the impossible task of unpacking three pallets of kitchen small wares, stacked four feet tall each; counting, checking, washing, and putting away..... possible.  Last minute odds and ends carpenter hit list (thank you brother Mark).  And then assembling a ridiculous mountain of paperwork that is required to be "compliant" with the various labor boards into "employee packets".  Right, save a tree!  Laws upon laws to try and protect the human species from hurting themselves.  A pass time we seem to have acquired a knack for since the beginning of time. 

If I could work 24/7 with 2 people by my side, I still wouldn't get done all that needs getting done.  Somethings are just getting left undone.  There's a mountain of invoices and I don't even have time to look at them all, let alone file them or shuffle money around fast enough.  I'm getting nervous, anxious and its hard to stay focused on not enough sleep.  And then I hear the words from my Bishop Walter Hawkins' song....."I can take it,  I can make it, I can bare it, with the Lord on my side...... Oh-oh-O....."

Next week I suspect will be even crazier.... we start training the staff on Wednesday.  God give me strength!

Angels watching over me = Password for a free glass of wine when we open!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Breathe Deep

What a roller coaster ride!  This week has been up and down, aggravating and joyous, sleepless and renewed.  But I've come out of it rested, encouraged and ready to face next week.

I suppose this is all to be expected as we get closer to opening, in fact, it will probably get more intense.  I know I almost hit the wall a few times this week, and I spent more days wondering what the hell I was thinking than not.    The sleepless thing is huge.  It's pretty much impossible to have a good day when you're seriously sleep deprived.  Yesterday I really thought I was going to have a heart attack.  I went home around 3 and spent the rest of the day resting.  And with a good nights sleep and a relaxing day by myself at the shop, I feel ready to face what will most likely be our final week of construction.

This week we had a great little write up in the Marin IJ, all our tables and chairs are in.  Got the HR packets 80% done.  We got the oven primed and ready to fire full throttle.  Gonna make some pizzas tomorrow!  But most monumental is the store front finally arrived!  Now all the last minute finish work is being done and next week we start our round of final permits.  Tomorrow is our ADA report, Tuesday the POS goes in, Wednesday is the final clean up, Thursday is our final with the Health Departartment, then we just have to plead with the San Anselmo Building Department to let us get started training even though the stucco on the outside of the building will take 10 days to dry.  He won't give us a final until EVERYTHING is complete, including the sign which can't go on until the stucco is dry.  So hopefully, by the last week in September, or maybe October 1st, we may quietly open our doors!

Today I got my Alcohol License in the mail!  That has been the easiest agency yet for me to deal with.   Lynda, who was assigned to my application has been incredibly helpful every step of the way.  Now if everyone in a municipal office was as helpful as she is, it'd make opening a business a whole lot less stressful!

We've been "poaching" all week, going to restaurants and leaving our cards with employees we felt were doing an outstanding job.  I felt bad about doing this until several of my restaurant friends said they've done it at one time or another.  That in itself has been a very educational experiment!  I could write a whole blog on getting good employees, and then another on servers in Marin!

I've been on my knees a few times this week.  There are moments when the only sane thing to do is surrender.

Breathe deep........

Monday, September 3, 2012

Guarding the Dream

This was a strange and trying week.  Trying my faith and conviction.  My health and strength.  My spirit and peace of mind.  For the first time in this process I have really wondered, what the hell was I thinking!  A regular ol' job sounds really good right about now!  Thank God for my church Sunday, my Pastor preached a message I really needed about guarding your mind from attack!  Sleep deprivation is part of the problem as well as just too many things to do (which comes first?).  So I've tried to lay low this weekend and get some rest and sleep.

The brightest light in my week was a charming visit with Craig Ramini of Ramini Buffalo Mozzarella.  He has three buffalo cheeses ready that he is selling, so I got to taste and marvel at the elegance of these cheeses.  I love what he is doing.  Like myself, he has a passion and drive for what he's doing that borders on the insane when viewed from the wiles of this world, but in fact is the only true and honest way to live; on the edge, true to your gifts, and in harmony with the laws of nature and community.  Its all about the relationship; to the land, the animals, the product, the buyers, the consumers &  even the way the business is conducted.  Yes!  Life is too short and precious to not feel 100% good about who and how you do business!  I can't wait to proudly create with his cheese!

I realize I took no photos this week..... I need a good camera, but that's no excuse.  So many little details now.  Little details that take lots of time!  Trying to get a good staff is harder than I thought.  Five Craigslist adds and we still need more people.  Maybe I shouldn't have bit off lunches and dinners seven nights a week!  Starting to second guess all kinds of things right about now!  All the HR stuff is incredibly daunting.  Again, all the governmental agencies will drive you nuts!  It pays to do it right in the beginning, though laborious. I do have a fabulous Manager on board now, Kelly Caveney who is helping with all the hiring.  Even with Kelly, Douglas my chef and myself, there is just so much to do!

Still waiting for our storefront windows and doors!  Nothing can happen until that's in.  My contractor has been calling morning and night for a week and the story sounds legit, but I'm getting angry about it.  The greatest design in the world isn't any good if you can't deliver.  One of my greatest lessons in this is to make sure you work with people who will do what they say they will do.  Many people will shake their head and say yes, but they aren't even aware of their own limitations.  It's your job to sniff out those limitations and either walk with them, around them, or away from them.  The gift of understanding people is one of the most necessary abilities in this undertaking, and of course, in life.

Happy Labor Day!