Monday, June 04, 2007

On The Menu

On The Menu
A Variety Of Dining Options Find New Homes At The Nut Tree
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Kyle Lidinsky (left) and Ken Hilgendorf, both of West Palm Beach, Fla., enjoy lunch at Amici's, one of the many new eateries at the new Nut Tree. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Vacaville residents already have no shortage of eatery options at the new Nut Tree, and they will eventually be able to find everything from Mexican cuisine to Jelly Belly candies all in one place.

A number of restaurants and food retailers have begun cropping up at the revitalized Vacaville landmark, and several others are coming soon. While the project is home to some larger chains, Nut Tree tenants seem to be primarily specialty retailers with a limited number of locations.

City Manager David Van Kirk indicated this is no accident and explained, "We're looking for unique things that will draw people and make them want to come back."

Brad LaRue, of Nut Tree developer Snell and Co., added, "We're trying to get a mix of sit-down and casual dining restaurants, particularly ones with a regional or local background that are special and unique to the Bay Area."

In the case of Mariani, a company with strong ties to Vacaville, the Nut Tree site will be its first store. Patti Sousa, director of business development, said the establishment will have a fruit-stand theme and offer Mariani's full selection of dried fruits and snacks like vanilla yogurt raisins, banana chips and fruit rolls.

Sousa said the Nut Tree "just seemed like a perfect fit" for the 101-year-old company steeped in family tradition. She encourages patrons of the store, which had its soft opening this week, to note the mural that depicts the rolling hills and orchards of the pre-development Santa Clara Valley, where Mariani originated.

As of this month, the Nut Tree Market Pavilion is also home to one of only three Fenton's Creamery stores. The Oakland-based company has a 113 year history, and Sam Zarnegar, director of operations, said a location at the Nut Tree "basically blends two names together from the past."

"We thought that it would be a good mix," he added, explaining that Fenton's is reminiscent of a 1940s ice cream parlor with marble-top counters and retro booths. As for what sets the eatery apart, he explained, "We do our ice cream custom by hand fresh every day; that's what makes us distinct." The eatery also features a menu of hamburgers and specialties like the half-crab sandwich.

Peter Cooperstein, owner of Amici's Pizza, said the new Vacaville location had a soft launch May 8 and "business has been pretty steady since day one." Cooperstein said he and his business partner, fellow East Coast transplant Mike Forter, started Amici's to bring New York-style pizzerias to the West Coast.

"The Nut Tree is a wonderful landmark with a great history and a great association in peoples' minds," Cooperstein said, explaining that the development is not your average shopping center. "They're not simply building spots and filling them with tenants; a lot of thought has gone into this."

For those who prefer Mexican to Italian, Villa Corona Mexican restaurant will be opening its second Vacaville location in the Market Pavilion, the first being located at Peabody Road and Alamo Drive. Owner Carlos VillaseƱor said the business began in Napa in 1972 with his parents, and it remains a family-run operation with four locations including the Nut Tree.

"I think we do things a little different, a little more authentic than your average restaurant," he said, adding, "I've been told it's like getting a home-cooked meal." An opening date is not determined, but VillaseƱor said the target is June or July.

A taste of the Hawaiian Islands is coming to the Nut Tree Village by way of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue. The Honolulu-based chain has more than 190 stores, primarily in the western states, and already has a presence in Solano County with its Vallejo and Fairfield stores.

"Our menu is a fusion of Asian and American types of food," said Brandon Dela Cruz, director of marketing. Dela Cruz said the earliest that Vacaville residents will be noshing on dishes like chicken katsu and mahi mahi is August or September.

Tea lovers will be pleased to know a specialty tea retailer, Teaz Me Teas, has plans to open shop at the Nut Tree. Janette Golomeic, national program manager for the company, said the exact location of the store is still being negotiated.

"It most likely will not be until the New Year," Golomeic said of a Vacaville opening. The unique establishment offers innovations like a chocolate chai frozen tea latte and a watermelon kiwi tea freeze.

"We take tea and make it a little bit fun," she said.

LaRue named other tenants that will populate the Nut Tree Village, including Winters Fruit Tree, a family farm operation; Potter Family Farms, purveyor of farmstead meats and cheeses; Made in California, featuring gifts and gourmet food items like sauces and marinades; Capay Valley Farm Shop, Jelly Belly candies, and Stonehouse California Olive Oil Company.

He also confirmed that Jamba Juice and Rubio's Mexican Grill are planning to move into a building next to Peet's Coffee. It will not be soon, he said, as the structure is under construction.

"That's probably six, seven months away," he said. Also moving in is Tossed, a place to find salads, sandwiches and desserts.

A full list of tenants in the Nut Tree Village is posted on the Web site of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau,

A salads, pasta and, of course, pizza are among the fare at Amici's. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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