Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Heart of Pizzalina Arrives

Well, its been a whirl-wind week!  My contractor is SO AWESOME!  I may actually have the only restaurant in the history of the world that ever opened ahead of schedule.  Josh doesn't mess around!  My oven was delivered on Monday, the heart of Pizzalina.  Josh had actually tried to surprise me and get it there on Friday but the driver got in an accident on the Golden Gate Bridge.  He was fine, and the truck was fine, but the oven he had on the truck broke free of its straps inside the cab when he had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the driver in front of him.  The oven went tumbling on its side, smashing the framing, but the brick oven itself was ok.  They took it back to Watsonville where luckily they can rebuild the frame around it.  This is why I chose to use Mugnaini Ovens, they're imported from Italy but fitted, framed and shipped right here in the Bay Area.  I've heard of too many horror stories of people not getting their Italian ovens in on time because of shipping, accidents or customs.

We also ran into a little trouble with the main sewer pipes that run into the space.  It seems they were corroded.  But once again, Josh to the rescue, he ran interference with the landlord and got them to handle it.  I think I'll get Josh a Superman T-Shirt!  The guy is really looking out for my a@#* and I don't even know how I'll ever be able to repay him for the extra mile he's gone and continues to go.  He is a true jewel.

Got the fire pit done too!
So this weekend he says, "you know I could have this done for you by September 1st."  That's a month earlier than originally predicted!  Let me tell you I freaked out.  Though I'm overjoyed to be open sooner, there's so much more to do to get ready.  I realized I've got to kick it into high gear!  So if there are days that go by and you don't see a post, you'll know...... I'm running and too tired at days end to do anything else.  My eyeballs literally hurt.  Some days I run all day; meetings with sales people, tasting product, pricing vendors, running interference for Josh and then when I get home at night I'm working on paperwork.  HR packets, policies, job descriptions, training manuals, procedures, forms, recipes, costing sheets.  No more TV, no more books, occasionally I'll sit down at the piano and sooth my soul with a hymn.  My life has changed, but I've never felt more purposeful.  I love it!

goodnight angels, I hear your wings.......

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Napa Valley Morning

Well, it's been a week!  And I couldn't think of a better ending to a busy week than to rise up early nestled amongst the the dappled vineyards of the Napa Valley.  Last night we had another wine tasting for the menu, this time at the "guest house" at Paradigm Winery.  A charming little farm house tucked within a secret garden and surrounded by some of Napa Valleys finest vineyards.  Tired as I was, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to rise early with the sun shinning though the leaves, and catch up on my writing.

We found some more gems last night for the list, of course everything that Suzanne Groth brought, and also some wonderful wines from Robin Gerber with Spotlight Brands, who specialize in small, local producers, blending unusual varietals, and a couple of stand-outs from my friends at the James Family Vineyards.  Yummy!  We had a nice little pot luck dinner and I made another attempt at the GF pizza, which wasn't as great because we had to use a standard oven, which doesn't get as hot so I couldn't get the bubbling I'm looking for, but the taste was good.

So last weekend it took me three days to get over the shell shock of depositing BIG checks to start funding this whole project.  I had to write some major checks, I think I had my contractor really worried.  He warned one of the subs, "You can talk like a truck driver around her, just don't mention money!"

Besides the entire kitchen equipment contract, I got most of the big, timely stuff ordered this week; banquette, community table, mixer, trim tiles, bath tiles, and the outdoor sign.  Next week will be tables & chairs, smallwares, phones, sound system, etc.   Now Sean and I are going to walk to Bouchon in Yountville for coffee; get our morning coffee and exercise too.  Not a bad way to start the morning!  Then it's back home to work at Picco for the day.

Enjoy these beautiful summer days!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Cleaned up, wall in place ready to build!
Hallelujah!  Thank you Jesus!  I got my Building Permit! (Happy dance).....

Looking out the front window and entry
So, six weeks later and $7,000, well $9500 if you count the road deposit.  Something they're supposed to give you back when you're done if you haven't torn up the road.  Really?  The cost of opening a restaurant....  They told me it would cost more than I expected and take longer, they were right!  You need to have faith, passion and determination to pursue your dream!  To risk everything and dare to do what many will caution you against, isn't easy, its downright scary at times.  You have to believe with everything in your heart that you are being called to do precisely what you were meant to do.  And then trust, walk out on that ledge and jump and know that God will give you wings!  OK, that's my pep-talk to my own self for the day!

Now I'm running trying to get my money lined up, contracts with my equipment guy signed and deposited.  Gotta make a list and schedule to start ordering the things I'm in charge of: tables, chairs, small equipment, small wares, lighting, trim tiles.  The list goes on and on.

Plumbing line mapped out
Also meeting with my chef next week to finalize the menu and start on recipes, costing sheets, vendor lists, labor staffing, scheduling and training.  Get utilities and internet to the site.  What else is on my desk/kitchen table?  Oh yes, my lovely employee handbook, almost finished.  Then on to training manuals and employee packets.

Then my architect calls me today and says, "oh you need those plans that the Health Department stamped, but we had to give them to the Town of San Anselmo Building Department and they threw them out!"  REALLY!  Who's A#%* can I go kick?!

Oh yes, and don't forget to celebrate with your best friends!  God bless Barry, Kate and Nick who called me up tonight and said, "let's go celebrate!"

Cherish your friends.........

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gluten-Free Pizzas

Margherita (amazing cab)
In the spirit of Independence Day, I think our Founding Fathers would be appalled at what it takes to get a little business opened in America today.  That being said, I did go down to the San Anselmo Building Department today and found out that both the Building and Planning Departments had APPROVED my plans!  Woo-Hoo!  However, they were waiting for the Fire Department's approval.  When I went down the street to the Ross Valley Fire Department, I found out the Fire Inspector was on vacation all week.  Wouldn't you know.....When I asked about the status of my review, she said it was "on hold"?  I'm hoping its "on hold" because he didn't have time to review our plan revisions before he left.  I'm also hoping it'll be the first thing he gets to Monday morning and takes "off hold" with his John Hancock!  My contractor is ready, I'm ready, the landlord is ready and I think San Anselmo is ready for some awesome pizza!

With fresh zucchini from the garden!
So, yesterday after a wonderful 4th of July, post Sleepy Hollow Parade party at our friends house, Sean and I headed home for a round of gluten-free pizza experiments.  I've been trying to perfect my dough, and Sean, having been stricken with celiac disease about 8 years ago, is my willing and exuberant guinea pig.  I'm happy to report, I'm getting closer!  I'm not 100% satisfied, but then I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  What I will say, is that if the best I get is what I made last night, it would still be pretty damn good and 95% better than most of what I've tried.  That being said, the experiments go on and I've got a pretty good idea of how to alter the recipe to get the results I'm after.  You'll never get a beautiful, light yeasty crown around the outside with gluten-free dough, but you can get a thin cracker like crust with bubbling, and that's what I'm after.  Even though my regular pizza dough is a natural, long fermentation process and extremely easy to digest and full of probiotics, there are those who CANNOT tolerate gluten, for them I will proudly have a house-made alternative.

Got my employee manual started today.  Its hilarious how you can really procrastinate on things that are tedious and time consuming.  I've been putting this off for weeks!  Also got the builders risk insurance lined up and paid for, and the contract with my contractor signed and delivered today.  Also did a little employee scouting.  I've got my eye on a few outstanding people I'd LOVE to recruit!  There are some things you can teach people and there are somethings that they are just born with.  A happy and fun-loving spirit that cares for others and takes pride in what they do, cannot be taught.  That's what I'm looking for at Pizzalina!

Have a wonderful weekend........  

GF dough is best rolled out with a rolling pin

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stew Hens

The Hens (minus Emily & Loretta) :(
This will be another week of waiting on the building permit, and maybe longer because of the holiday.  I'll try to patiently enjoy this moment of calm before the storm.

What could be a more perfect way to start such a week, than with a glorious luncheon with the "Stew Hens"!  Last week was the Stars Re-Aligned Dinner, and this week its a Re-United Luncheon with the ladies of stars.  This little group of women was started maybe about 15 years ago by Colleen McGlynn, of DaVero Olive Oil, who I believe also coined the
Yummy Soft Shell Crab

English Pea Ravioli with Morels - Heavenly!
name, Stew Hens.  It started as a quaint little dinner party at her house to get together with our women friends who all used to work at Stars.  I'll never forget that one because Colleen had picked up some Peking Ducks from a local market in China Town and built a whole meal around it.  It was memorable to this day!  Colleen, Emily Luchetti, Loretta Keller, Wendy Brucker, Holly Snyder, Franny and myself.  Since then we periodically declare a Stew Hen gathering and whoever can make it, gets together to reminisce, catch up, rekindle, and generally love on, support and encourage each other through life. 

So yesterday Colleen, myself, Wendy Brucker, Holly Snyder, and Lori Theis all got together to celebrate Franny Pasternick being in town from Oaklahoma!  Lori flew in from LA and Holly from Seattle.  Now that's what I call friends!  We had an incredible lunch at Waterbar prepared by Parke Ulrich.  Pete Sittnick took such good care of us we felt like royalty!  The view, the day, the food, the friendship; blessings abound with so much to be grateful for!  The only thing missing was our pals Emily Luchetti and Loretta Keller both out of town on vacation.  They were truly missed, but we'll just have to do it again!

Something about food and friends and fellowship, that just brings life into focus and gives it a real depth of meaning.  To share a meal with friends is one of the most basic and necessary pleasures of life.  To sit around a table, laugh, eat, drink, be merry.  To shake off the worries of the world, enjoy the blessings of friends, share in each others lives the stories that make us unique, yet so very commonly human.  To rekindle the bonds that bind, uplift the spirits to soar, and encourage our hearts on in a crazy world, now that's what I'm takin' about...... real friends!  Love you Hens.....

In the mean time, I ordered the specialty lighting for the dining room, and this week I've got to write an employee manual.  Argh, not the most inspired task!

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Grab a friend and BBQ!