Monday, October 31, 2005

A white tablecloth Italian restaurant and lounge will likely open in downtown Vallejo this spring

October 30, 2005

Project in works to bring Italian cuisine to Vallejo

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer

A white tablecloth Italian restaurant and lounge will likely open in downtown Vallejo this spring, it was learned Thursday.

The owner of the recently remodeled building at the southwest corner of Sonoma Boulevard and Georgia Street, who wished to remain anonymous, says a project in the works for several years is expected to be finalized shortly. When it is, work will begin on turning the large, historic building into a high-end, southern Italian-leaning eatery, said chef Fabrizio Protopapa.

"I'm going to do food from my region of Italy, Puglia," said the 36-year-old former chef and owner of San Francisco's Brindisi Restaurant. "I want to share my culture with people."

The restaurant's concept is not set in stone, said one of Protopapa's two partners, Guillermo Corona of Napa, owner of Taqueria Rosita in American Canyon and Napa.

"It will be Italian-leaning," Corona said. "Maybe a cross between the Rutherford Grill and a Don Giovanni's. American and Italian."

Between Corona, Protopapa and the third team member, restaurateur Fernando Villa Senor of Napa, the site will become a "destination restaurant" while the heritage of the building itself will be "respected and showcased," Corona said.

"There will be an oval bar in the middle and the kitchen will be an island, like a show, where people can interact," Protopapa said. "We'll have white tablecloths, a cocktail/appetizer area and, eventually downstairs, a lounge with live music. Jazz. What have you."

Protopapa, a chef since the age of 18, said the trio chose to open their place in Vallejo because of changes they see coming.

"The building's owner told me how Vallejo will be developing in the next two years, and there are few really nice restaurants there," Protopapa said. "Lots of people are moving there from The City, and why should people in Vallejo and American Canyon have to go to Napa for a really nice meal?"

Protopapa is adopting Vallejo as his own, he said.

"I'm moving here. I love Vallejo. It's beautiful here. I used to live in Napa, and whenever Vallejo was

mentioned, you only heard it is a ghetto," Protopapa said. "But when I started riding through there, on my motorcycle mostly, I found it

doesn't deserve its bad name. It deserves to be one of the best places in the Bay Area. And I hope I can make a contribution to that."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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