Business Review – Molinari Caffe

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By Craig Smith

Rick Molinari, owner of Molinari Caffe at 828 Brown Street between Third and Second in downtown Napa, painted “Pazienza,” the Italian word for “Patience,” on a wall in his home. He ponders it every day, reminding himself that things will eventually return to normal for his business. Although Molinari Caffe sustained relatively little damage from the 2014 earthquake, his business hasn’t been the same since it hit.

Many people suffered damage from the quake and most have put their lives back in order. Molinari Caffe lost glassware and some duct work from the HVAC system was jarred loose, but otherwise they came through it unscathed, and were able to open a few hours later. But when inspectors came through and looked at the damage to the buildings next to him, which were quake-devastated, they closed the cafe for fear that a neighboring structure could topple onto them. Then they closed the street as well.

The building neighboring Molinari Caffe to the north, the Alexander Square building, may have been the most photographed building from the earthquake. It’s been surrounded by tarp-covered scaffolding since, which completely blocks the view of the Caffe from Second Street. The building to the south was also badly damaged, and tarps covering it block the view from Third Street. Brown Street was completely closed for months. It’s re-opened as more narrow, with K rail in place that blocks the entrance to the deli completely, except from the intersections seventy-five feet away. The courthouse directly across the street will be closed for years, and is completely fenced off. Molinari Caffe is the proverbial island unto itself. Still, the Caffe is open six days a week, although business is way off. Molinari looks forward to the day the construction on each side of him is finished and the street re-opened, if he can survive that long.

Molinari dreamed of opening a coffee shop twenty years ago, but as it often does, life got in the way. Several years ago, while working in San Rafael, Molinari befriended Alfred Peet understudy John Weaver, the master roaster at Peet’s Coffee for twenty years, who is now roasting his own coffees. Five years ago, Molinari lost both his father and uncle within six months of each other. That was his “life is short” wake up call, and his dream of opening a coffee shop was re-awakened. Molinari visited coffee shops all over the country, taking ideas from places he liked. Blending what he learned, and with help from
partners John and Michael Brown, Molinari Caffe became a reality.

Molinari Caffe is one of the few places where people can purchase Weaver’s full line coffee and tea in bulk, including the rare Jamaican Blue Mountain. Molinari refers to it as, “Heaven in a cup.”

Molinari is crazy about good coffee, and believes nothing should ever have to be added to a cup. He uses everything—his cold-coffee is yesterday’s blend, which he says is better with age. He also developed a Nutella coffee, his own signature drink. His food menu includes half a dozen sandwiches, including a sandwich of the day, but he’ll make anything you want.

Molinari’s food output is limited by the size of his kitchen, which led to a brilliant idea and several creative partnerships. Using Molinari’s recipes, Alexis Baking Company prepares pasta, chicken and potato salads for Molinari. Both ABC and Sweetie Pies provide baked goods, and Bui Bistro makes soups.  The Caffe features Zoe’s meats from Santa Rosa and Kohler Chocolates. Molinari Caffe is a coffee shop, but it’s also a deli with a lot to offer.

Molinari is very proud of his Molinari Private Reserve, a wine-infused coffee that’s available in regular and decaf. Molinari T.A.P. (Tastings and Pints) is a program he introduced last year. Wednesday nights from 4:30 to 8:30, Molinari features a small production local winery, paired with charcuterie and a relaxing place to kick back after a day of work. Thursday nights will focus on local beers. The program will begin with a brew from Scott Kendall of Carpe Diem and Jason Holman from Holman Cellars.

Molinari is committed to keeping the business going. “This place is home to everybody, staff and customers alike,” he said. He hears encouragement from all over the Bay Area. “I’ve had people from Corte Madera, San Francisco and Sacramento tell me they love our coffee shop, and can’t believe all we’ve had to endure.”

The coffee is good and hot, the food offerings are great, and the entertainment is fun. Visit Molinari Caffe now, and help keep the dream alive!

828 Brown Street, Napa  |  (707) 927-3623    |

Open Monday – Friday 7AM – 5PM  |  Saturday 7AM – 4PM


Napa Palisades Saloon – Business Review

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By Craig Smith

Chuck Meyer, one of the four friends who teamed up to open Napa Palisades Saloon, has been in the restaurant business for over twenty years. “In this crazy business,” he said, “it’s almost shocking when the plan comes together and the business is what you wanted it to be. This is absolutely closer to what I had in mind in concept than any restaurant I’ve
ever opened.”

What he and his partners, Kevin Sprenger, John Lohman and Charlie Crebs, wanted was a modern day saloon to support their fledgling brewery. “We’re a group of local guys that live here in Napa. We built a place that our friends and neighbors would feel at home in,” said Meyer. While lots of businesses say they are for locals, these guys mean it. “We didn’t want anything pretentious. If tourists want to come here, that’s great, but we want the place to be full of locals every night.”

Chef Tim Brown, whose twenty years in restaurants include everything from soup kitchens to James Beard award-winning restaurants, is on the same page. “This is a gathering place where people feel comfortable. It feels like your living room.”

While multiple TV screens covering different sporting events hang on the walls, this isn’t really a sports bar. The beer and the food are too good for that moniker.

“With all the great craft beers that are around here, there’s been a big void in the market,” said Crebs. “You can drive twenty five miles in any direction from Napa and taste some of the best beers in the country.” Palisades has thirty two of them on tap, including 101 North Golden Naked Ale, Lagunitas Czech Pils and Drake’s Hefeweizen, as well as hard to find offerings like Heretic Brewery Gramarye and Carneros Brewing Negra IPA. Another dozen taps dispense wine and ciders.

They even brew their own beer, with Napa Palisades 24/7 Session IPA and Napa Palisades 1849 Gold Rush Red currently on tap. Their beers are currently brewed off-site, but will soon be made at the Saloon. Brewing on-site will allow them to get a mixed drink license, at which time they will showcase several whiskys.

The current trend in restaurants is to brew beer as a way of being allowed to sell mixed drinks, but these guys are serious beer guys. “We are doing this so we can brew beer, not just to get the license,” said Crebs. “We’ll also have the best R&D you can get – we can make a beer and find out instantly if people like it.”

Chef Brown has created a menu that far outstrips most pub food. The eight appetizers include a soup or two of the day, Shrimp and Grits with Bacon, Mushrooms and Smoked Chili Butter, and Reuben Croquettes, with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss and 1,000 Island. On the Between Breads menu is the Saloon Burger with White Cheddar, Stout Braised Onions, Grandma’s Brown Pickles and The Sauce. There’s also a Lamb Burger, Chicken BLT and Falafel Burger, all served with tantalizing ingredients. The six Plates & Bowls include Pot Roast, Braised Niman Ranch Tri-Tip, Potatoes, Winter Vegetables and Gold Rush Red Jus. As you would expect, the sides tie everything together.

1000 Main Street, Suite 100, Napa  |  (707) 296-1552   |

Mon. – Thurs. 11:30am to 11pm | Fri. 11:30am – Midnight | Sat. 9:30am – Midnight | Sun. 9:30am – 10pm

Highly Extraordinary and Exceptional – Chris Olivier

Local Twelve Year Old Makes a Difference.

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By Linda Bausch

Some people you meet are extraordinary. I knew this was going to be true about Chris Olivier the minute he approached me at a local trade show. He seemed to have more on his mind than gathering tchotchkes or candy from vendors. I told him that I thought I recognized him, and he said it was probably because there had been some stories written about his recent volunteer effort – collecting books for victims of the devastating Valley Fire in Middletown.

The Olivier family, Rich, Leti and Chris, as many others, had lost so much in the South Napa earthquake. Chris didn’t lose his books though, and reading was a safe haven for him; providing a good way to take his mind off of the recovery challenge the tight-knit family faced after the quake.

Valley Fire victims had lost everything. Chris knew that meant their books burned too, and he was compelled to help. Thanks to his social media savvy, using Facebook to put out a call to action, Chris connected with local business owners; Sylvan, BOHO style, and Napa Bookmine, who each helped Chris’ mission in their own way. Middletown school teacher, Jacqueline Caviness, also had the same idea, collecting books and cash to help the cause. Even visiting tourists saw the posts and pitched in. Chris collected one thousand books on his own, give-or-take a few!

Chris and his parents made the trek to Middletown to deliver the books. He relished seeing the excited, happy faces of youngsters, who had lost everything in the fire, anxiously waiting their turn to peruse the stacks. He encouraged everyone to take more than one book. “Take as many books as you want. If it’s a ‘series’, take all of them so you know how the story turns out!” Most only wanted to take one or two books, concerned that if they took more, someone else might go without.

Thoughtfulness overshadowed desire.

This was not his first book-focused effort. Years back, Chris traveled his Napa neighborhood with a wagon filled with books, sharing his bounty with others. He called it the Little Rolling Library.

For a few years, Chris had wanted to build a structure to house a “Little Free Library” at their home, where others could pick up or drop off books. His parents thought this idea would pass, until one year, Chris decided Chris decided to skip a trip to the fair and use the money and time to build his library. Chris and his dad put their heads and hearts together and built a little shed that became Chris’ “Free Library,” offering a reading or donating opportunity to anyone passing by their St. Helena home. Stop by Doris Court, and get a book to read!

I soon learned the ‘book’ story was only a small fraction of what this young man has accomplished in his 12 years.

Chris is one of millions afflicted with multiple, possibly fatal, food allergies. He is allergic to many things most people eat every day. Chris must be on guard at all times. He is highly vigilant of his surroundings; where and how his food is prepared, who is eating ‘what’ in close proximity to him, and he must be in control of every food item he encounters. Imagine his fear when overhearing adults at a school he used to attend, asking each other if they knew, “Where is Chris’ Epi pen?” (An Epi pen is an auto-injector device, containing a pre-measured dose of epinephrine, which must be administered immediately upon an allergen contamination in order to reverse the life-threatening reaction.) Unfortunately, he knows all too well what it feels like to have his throat begin to swell and close off. His life depends on quick and easy access to an Epi pen.

One day, Chris overheard his mom on the phone, she was being asked to take a lead role as advocate for a grassroots Bay Area organization, advocating for those suffering from allergies. Knowing her limits, and having a very “full plate” being a mom, wife, and working, Leti thoughtfully declined the request. Chris decided to take action. He would take on the role his mother turned down.

He wrote up a “plan” and created Northern California Allergy and Asthma Advocates, or “NC-triple-A,” as Chris refers to it, and named his mother Co-Founder. Videos with important updates and vital information on the topic are easily found on their Facebook and YouTube pages.

In 2014, Chris, along with physicians and other young allergy sufferers, were invited by California Senator, Bob Huff, to testify in front of the California legislature in favor of SB1266, a bill authored by Senator Huff. SB1266 would mandate changes to existing laws on the subject of food allergy reactions and students’ safety in all school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools; as well as provide training (and legal protection) for volunteers willing to administer the medication, without delay, when needed. In light of his life experience and level of maturity, Chris Olivier was deemed a “professional witness.” Wow.

With the help of these testimonials from the physicians, and insightful young citizens like Chris, Senator’s Huff’s bill passed unanimously, and became law in January 2015.  As if that wasn’t enough, he also plans to go back to the legislature to help strengthen existing “bullying” laws.

Now in the 7th grade at Blue Oak School, Chris and his classmates helped with a shoe drive benefiting Soles4Souls, a world-wide organization, collecting and distributing shoes for those in need. Year round donations will be collected and stored by Chris.

Chris has volunteered at St. Helena Library since 2013, at the age of nine. He hopes to be hired for his first job there, and plans to open his own book store one day.

It’s not all work for Chris though; he loves to play guitar. One of his favorite pastimes is going to guitar shops and playing his dream instruments. He is talented, and hopes to become a musician and artist. Playing golf on a team is also something Chris is looking forward too.

Thinking of college, on his list of possibilities; MIT, Harvey Mudd or Cal Tech, he is leaning toward Harvey Mudd because “It’s a better return on our investment.”

Chris said, “My ultimate dream is to be a supercar designer. The man that influenced me with his design is Horacio Pagani. You should look him up as he has an amazing story!”

Chris hopes to take his projects world-wide, providing Books for all ages and shoe donations for disaster victims and others in need. Let’s all join Chris with his efforts. Books (for all ages) and shoe donations may be dropped off at the Olivier’s business location; TEM Performance, 1785 Tannen Street, Napa. Anyone interested in contacting Chris regarding all the great ideas and future projects he has in store, may email him (sent to his mom) at

Rich and Leti – keep it up, you are doing
something right!

John Stewart of Custom Health & Fitness


By Michelle Francis

John Stewart of Custom Health & Fitness – A Man Determined to Achieve

You know things are different the moment you pull up to Custom Health & Fitness on California Boulevard. For one thing, there’s a large sign that reads Open 24 Hours, which is certainly a rarity around town. And, in the middle of the day, I find I can’t enter the building because I don’t have a key card to grant access. That’s because safety is of great importance to proprietor John Stewart. His goal is to offer the people of Napa “high quality, convenience, cleanliness, and community involvement – all at an affordable price.” And he knows how to deliver.

Stewart is a champion Powerlifter and Bodybuilder, who earned the title of “Best Lifter” at the APA California “Raw” Powerlifting meet in 2009 – six years after sustaining an injury that was supposed to have rendered him unable to do much more than lift a toothbrush or a coffee cup. “I suffered a complete tear in my [right] pectoral muscle, and was told I’d never lift again,” Stewart said.

Undeterred, Stewart doggedly searched for a surgeon who knew how to fix his injury. And after undergoing surgery, he established his own physical therapy regimen that had him working out four hours a day, four days a week for an entire year.

It was during this period that Custom Health & Fitness began. Officially started in January 2004, Custom Health & Fitness began as a one-man, traveling-fitness operation. Stewart offered in-home fitness training to clients wherever he could find them: as a result, he would often traverse Napa, San Francisco, and Sacramento in a single day. His tenacity paid off. By 2005 he had a strong client base in Napa and was able to provide personal training by appointment-only in a small building at 520 California Boulevard. The business grew in a way that is true to the community spirit of Napa: positive word-of-mouth reviews helped the business flourish, and that growth hasn’t stopped. In 2006 Custom Health & Fitness evolved from personal training by appointment into a standard health club, and business kept steadily improving so that, come 2007, Stewart was able to expand into a second unit in the building. In order to better serve members with varying schedules, in 2008 Stewart decided to make the gym a 24-hour fitness club with key card security; he has since added two more sections, providing a total gym space of 5,000 square feet.

What seems to drive John Stewart, aside from his complete love of, and respect for, health and fitness, is a sense of purpose.

John returned to Powerlifting and Bodybuilding in 2008 to prove to himself that he could. He bulked up from his then-weight of 195 pounds, to 250 pounds, won his trophies, and returned to see his original Physical Therapist who had told him he’d never lift again. He has officially retired from the sports now, but he is able to apply those same principles of quiet dedication and fortitude for the benefit of his current clients. When I asked him to talk about his favorite success stories, he told me of clients who worked with him for multiple years to learn about healthy food, overall nutrition, and proper exercise, and who were able to lose more than one hundred pounds in the process. He also told me about clients with back pain who came to him looking for a functional version of fitness therapy; these individuals worked on stretching and strength training and, over time, transformed from clients who had difficulty sitting in their cars to clients who could perform the daily functions of life without pain. He beams with pride as he describes the stories of single clients whose success inspired entire families to pursue healthy living. But, what seems to be nearest and dearest to his heart are his connections with members of the community: with other local businesses and with individuals who began as clients that have become lifelong friends.

It’s not surprising, then, that when I asked him where he sees his business in five years, he readily responds that he hopes to expand from 5,000 square feet to 7,500 and increase his interactions with the community.

In order to maintain the community feeling and positive word of mouth, Stewart takes his commitment to his cliental very seriously. Cleanliness is of utmost importance, as is continuing to upgrade his machines and equipment. Custom Health & Fitness replaced every single piece of equipment in 2013, and hasn’t raised fees since then. Stewart happily explains that improvement is always a goal, and that he is “introducing all new Life Fitness and Hammer Strength machines, as well as top-of-the-line Power Step mills, treadmills, cross-trainers and elliptical machines, as well as Hammer Strength-designed weight equipment.”

It’s a testament to the something-for-everyone feel of his business that Stewart keeps his Powerlifting and Bodybuilding trophies upstairs in his office. He is there, his wealth of knowledge is there, and he seems ready to share with anybody who comes through the door in search of such information. But, if you’re beginning a health club membership for more modest reasons, those professional lifting mementos won’t be staring you in the face as you begin your healthcare regimen. Custom Health & Fitness boasts a six-person staff of easy-to-approach professionals; and, just in case you’re still a bit shy about approaching someone, there’s even a suggestion box open to all members.

Stewart takes great pride in the fact that he is able to offer versatile membership plans at affordable prices. In order to help honor your holiday fitness goals, Custom Health & Fitness has a special Napa Valley Marketplace promotion: from December 1st-21st, 2015, Napa residents can join for free with enrollment in any membership plan.  Whether you want to work on serious strength training or simply lose a little weight, Stewart makes it clear that “Custom Health & Fitness [is] Napa’s premiere local fitness destination.”

Napa Valley Residents Join for free

December 1-21 with enrollment in any membership plan

520 California Blvd. Suite 12, Napa  |  (707) 224-2300   |

Carpe Diem “Seizes the Day” with Great Food and Wine… Better than Ever Recovering from the Earthquake!

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

Our original Carpe Diem review was written for the September 2014 issue, but as we all know, August 24, 2014 drastically changed everything in downtown Napa. When Mother Nature put them out of business until repair crews could prop them back up, Carpe Diem opened a pop up in the Oxbow Market. Thanks to Mike Di Simone and so many others, Carpe Diem is back open in their beautifully updated location and doing well. We love these guys and know you do too!

Chef/owner Scott Kendall and Chef de Cuisine Andrew Martin are remarkable guys and smart enough to hire Jim Foster as their general manager. Jim was beloved at Tarla when it first opened and now he is on hand to delight diners at Carpe Diem. Mother Nature offered Carpe Diem a new opportunity to create two separate dining areas and a third room offers an inviting space for overflow crowds, cocktail lounge, or private parties. If you are a “look on the bright side” kind of person, that’s good news.

We had been told by many friends who are 10 to 30 years younger than us that we would love Carpe Diem and, of course, we did. Originally, we decided to stop by after a movie for a light, easy dinner and we were instantly impressed with the friendly atmosphere of the place. We decided to sit at the bar and talk to Jim, because we love him.

As we enjoyed our dinners we recalled a couple of previous restaurant incarnations that we used to visit at this location. There was PJ’s in the 90’s, with the very best BLT’s in the world, followed by La Gondola. Carpe Diem found the perfect combination of cool décor, great lighting, friendly qualified staff, GREAT food and a pretty darn good wine list that changes often. Jim Foster really knows his stuff when you ask wine questions and everyone loves talking to him.   

Carpe Diem seats 55, with 36 in the dining room and the bar. It is best known for its fabulous “Happy Hour” with half off for wine and appetizers from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Andrew Martin was in the kitchen cooking up a storm as we got to bask in Carpe Diem’s resurrection and feel grateful that once again, we can all enjoy their unique food at reasonable prices in small plates that you can easily share. Most of the people sitting with us at the bar were doing just that.

Carpe Diem’s executive Chef Scott Kendall has been in the kitchen since he was a teenager and went on to major in business management in college. Scott runs a tight ship and he is a fabulous chef who also makes a mean batch of beer.

Carpe Diem shifts its menu on the last Friday of the month to keep their guests coming back to see what’s new. Executive Chef Scott Kendall and Sous Chef Andrew Martin work together creating really wonderful dishes in the kitchen in the back of the restaurant at the front door as you enter Carpe Diem. Dishes like baked Quack ‘n Cheese are favorites along with Shredded BBQ Chicken Flat Bread, Prosciutto and Melon Flatbread. They make great salads, especially an amazing house-made Burrata with Heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, jam, cabernet sea salt, basil and crystals all served on grilled bread ($14). The folks sitting next to us went on and on and on about the Burrata. Next time, we will try that. Carpe Diem always offers at least 6 beers on draft including Lagunitas Fusion, 90 Minute Dogfish Head IPA and the Russian River collaboration with Sierra Nevada, Brux, and Monkey Fist IPA by the bottle.

Dorothy started with a glass of Presquill Rose’ ($11) and John took the beer route with a glass of Lagunitas Fusion ($7). For dinner, Dorothy ordered the Thai Curry Prawns with Jasmine, Kaffir lime rice and scallions, and sweet chili ($18), which was great. John ordered the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken with collard greens, grilled stone fruit, sweet potato smash and mustard seed gravy ($18). We remembered our trip this year to Charleston SC, so John was still on his collard greens kick with sweet potatoes and chicken cooked “Southern style” and he concluded that Carpe Diem did a better job on those items that the folks in South Carolina!

Carpe Diem’s menu includes great starters like Ahi Tuna Tartar ($13); Diver Scallop Carpaccio with picked rhubarb, strawberry and micro greens ($14); Artisanal Cheeses, like Delice De Bourgogne, The Tickler, Five Year Aged Gouda, Drunken Goat and Blu De Moncenisio and Charcuterie plates of 12 month aged Prosciutto, Loukanika, Ghost Pepper Salami, Housmade Pork Tillette and Wild Boar Salami. Pick one for $6, three for $13, or five for $19. Such a deal! The Small Plates include Filet Mignon Steak Skewers ($16); Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms ($15); Cabernet Braised Short Rib Tamales ($14); and for $3.50 you can add an organic duck egg, crispy pancetta, roasted chicken or do it “Carpe Diem Style” and add a duck egg and crispy pancetta for ($5). Carpe Diem also serves delicious flat breads and Ostrich Burgers with creamy brie cheese, cranberry caramelized onion and cabernet reduction sauce on toasted brioche bun ($19). Want Truffle Fries? You can have those too with your Ostrich Burger! Carpe Diem has a pretty impressive Wine Book with over 250 selections from which to choose, a variety of flights to try, and an impressive reserve list and, of course, their beer list with over 35 of the best beers from all over the world!

We skipped dessert, but for $8 you can order their house made Twix Bar which we were told is INCREDIBLE. Also to tempt you is their White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Pot De Crème; Lattes and Mochas are $4 and Espressos and Cappuccinos are $3.

Carpe Diem’s wine list includes over forty wines by the glass and a number of great local and imported wines that are really unique. Jim will entice customers to try a wine they have not tried before, and trust us; he knows what he is talking about! Carpe Diem offers special dinner/wine pairing events once a month. During these events, guests are treated to a five-course menu designed with a specific winery’s inventory in mind. If you are interested in bringing a group of friends with you for these special dinners, contact Carpe Diem now offers a new wonderful private dining space located adjacent to the restaurant that can host 40 seated diners or up to 50 guests for passed appetizers and drinks. If you are thinking of hosting a bigger party at Carpe Diem, you can do that too for up to 100 guests and you get the entire restaurant mid week only.

We left Carpe Diem very impressed and our total meal came to $58.32. Now, that’s a bargain for a great perfectly sized meal, a great glass of wine and a great beer. We passed on their Twix Bar for dessert, but next time, we are going back for it!

1001 Second Street, Napa  |  (707) 224-0800   |

Open Sun-Thurs 4-9 & Fri-Sat 4-10



Don Perico Reopens in Dwight Murray Plaza Following the Quake

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By Craig Smith

Marco and Berenice Castaneda, owners of Don Perico Mexican restaurant, now in Dwight Murray Plaza at 1116 First Street, are long-time Napa residents. Like most people in Napa, they were jolted awake at 3:20 a.m., August 24, 2014, when the earthquake shook Napa to its core. “It was scary,” said Marco Castaneda. “We looked around the house to make sure everything was safe, then went to the restaurant.”

Castaneda knew things were bad as soon as he got downtown. The streets were strewn with broken glass and, in some cases, large sections of buildings that had collapsed during the shaking. Water leaks from burst pipes, some of it gushing, was evident everywhere. Shell-shocked, but busy, merchants were already helping each other make sense of it all and restore order. Castaneda opened the front door of Don Perico, and used a flashlight to look around. “It was pretty bad,” he said. Large areas of the ceiling had collapsed, and rubble was everywhere. It was obvious that, had the quake hit during dinner the night before, people would have been seriously injured, or worse. Castaneda wound his way through the mess, turned off the gas, and looked around. He realized there wasn’t much else he could do right then. Still, it never occurred to him that the restaurant was doomed at that location. “I knew the damage was bad, but figured we’d be open again in a couple of months.”

Shortly after moving from Mexico,  Castaneda started his restaurant career as a busboy in a Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield..  He worked hard, paid attention to everything about the business, and was promoted repeatedly over the next ten years. His boss wanted to open a restaurant in Napa and invited Cataneda to be his partner. At the time, Castaneda had no savings, but saw this as an opportunity to make a better life for his wife and family. He borrowed from relatives and made the plunge. Don Perico opened in Napa in January of ’94. As the years passed, Castaneda bought out his partner until he was eventually sole owner. The restaurant has been a local favorite, almost since opening. The year of the earthquake was also their twentieth anniversary.

“When we knew we couldn’t return to our original location, I started looking for a new place.” Finding a spot wasn’t easy, and Castaneda and his wife took part- time jobs in a wine-storage facility in American Canyon. One day, he was commiserating with the owner of the restaurant across the street from Don Perico.  After talking awhile, Castaneda offered to buy out the owner’s  lease. The two men agreed, and struck a deal. That turned out to be the easy part.

At the time, the building, which is also home to Kohl’s, was not locally owned. The parent company, based in Arizona, put Castaneda through the same hoops they would with a new, prospective tenant. His quick handshake with the now-former restaurant owner turned into five months of negotiations with the building’s owners.

Don Perico re-opened May 15th this year. The restaurant was scheduled to open at 5:00 p.m., but people were waiting by 4:30, so the Castanedas opened the doors early. For the first month after they reopened there was a wait to get a table for dinner almost every night.  The Castanedas are gracious, unassuming people, who are very grateful for everyone who dines with them. The support from the community has been humbling. Castaneda was recently given the American Dream Award by the Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Don Perico is warm and inviting, offering good, honest, Mexican food. Take the family, and enjoy a relaxed night out.

Napa County’s Bustling Airport

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By Laird Durham

On an average day, 30,000 cars pass by Airport Boulevard at the junction of Highways 29 and 12.  There is a good chance yours is one of them, if not every day, at least once in a while.  But, the chances are that you do not know much about what goes on at the end of the road. You probably know it is an airport, and, maybe sometimes, while waiting for your traffic light to turn green, you see an airplane climbing up or circling in for a landing, but that’s about it.  Well, it may surprise you to find out that the Napa County Airport is a busy, exciting place. Among other things, it is an ideal place to train airline pilots and mount search and rescue operations. And, airport tenants provide more than $1
million a year for Napa schools.

First of all, on a peak day at the airport, there could be as many as 300 take-offs or landings – the Federal Aviation Administration lumps take-offs and landings together as “operations” – from twin-engine jets to small 2-seat planes, some built by their pilots from kits.  The operations are controlled by FAA Air Traffic Controllers housed in the state-of-the-art tower.  James Swanson, a second-generation, ATC Supervisor, says the Napa ATC crew is the youngest, most collaborative, and most professional he has ever worked with. They are so good the Napa tower is rated as a training center by the FAA, Swanson says.

The biggest and oldest operation at the airport is the 68-year-old, Napa Jet Center that manages or supports most of the private air activities: aircraft charters and rentals, jet fuel and av-gas supply, aircraft and engine repair and maintenance, aircraft sales, flying lessons, guest parking, pilot lounge and kitchen, and emergency medical service.  The Jet Center also will make reservations for fly-in visitors’ hotels, dining, car rentals, and wine tasting.  That last service is a big one:  Mark Willey, the Jet Center’s CEO, says 90% of visiting aircraft come here for winery visits.

Besides private and business aviation activity, the airport is a hub for law enforcement and search and rescue operations.  The California Highway Patrol has a flight operations center there, covering seven Bay-Area counties, with two helicopters and two fixed- wing airplanes manned almost around the clock by 24 pilot officers and

medics.  They have made some dangerous rescues over the past few months, from lifting injured hikers from rocky cliffs to off-shore boating accidents. At other times, CHP pilots have used high technology to direct ground officers to burglary or robbery suspects hiding in the bush. A group of some 20 airplane owners, based at the airport, support the Napa County Sheriff with a volunteer, Sheriff’s Aero Squadron that monitors emergency situations and helps with search and rescue operations.   

The International Airline Training

Academy, next door to the terminal building, has a fleet of 13, single-engine, Piper, flight trainers to qualify pilots for Asian airlines. For several years the academy was used to train pilots exclusively for Japan Airlines, but now it is training pilots for a handful of Asian airlines that some planners estimate will need 500,000 new pilots in the next ten years to meet the demand of Asia’s exploding growth. Unlike the US, with a large supply of airline pilot candidates from military and general aviation, Asian airlines must create pilots from scratch.  Captain Ron Davis, Chief Flight Instructor for IATA, expects to have 200 or more trainees this summer.

Many of the 197 aircraft owners who keep planes at the Napa airport are members of the Napa chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Napa Pilots Association.  Both of those organizations sponsor the Young Eagles program that gives free airplane rides to youngsters 8 to 17 – more than 1 million children at last count. On one recent flight, an 8 year old wondered about the small, black dots in a meadow below, then realized they were cows. “Wow,” the young eagle said, “the earth is a really big place.”

The EAA also hosts monthly displays of vintage aircraft, and annual visits of a B-17 and a Ford, Tri-Motor airliner with rides open to the public.  Sometimes these activities are joined by
ground-based, historic automobile displays.

Some members of the EAA are building their own airplanes in hangars at the airport; some from kits and some plans of successful models. Their aircraft are classified as “experimental” by the FAA, a designation the Feds apply to any aircraft other than a factory-manufactured, certificated model.  Once built and test-flown 40 hours to meet FAA specifications, the home-built airplanes have the same degree of airworthiness as factory-built airplanes.

There’s a restaurant in the Napa Airport terminal building called “The Runway”. It is the successor to the long-closed, Jonesy’s restaurant, once a favorite of many old-time Napans. Besides a full menu and bar, “The Runway” is a microbrewery producing its own pale ale. Across the lobby is a gift shop with aviation-themed merchandise.  Tops in popularity are child-sized, flight jackets.  Grandmothers love them.