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Ravenous Cafe Prepares for Bittersweet Return

After 10 years in the roomy bungalow on Center Street, the Ravenous Cafe and Lounge is returning to its nest near the Raven Theater.

 

“I guess everything has to come to an end,” said Joyanne Pezzolo.

The head chef and co-owner of was alternately wistful and excited about her plans to close down the homey restaurant and bar in the bungalow at 420 Center Street and move back to the place where it all began, the tiny single-room cafe on North St.

The Ravenous will close at the end of the business day on Saturday, March 31, and begin the serious effort of downsizing the Healdsburg tradition into smaller quarters.  The new/old location, the original Ravenous at 117 North – tucked as if under a wing of the – can seat 22 cozy customers; the current location can seat twice that, plus another 6 or 8 at the bar, and nearly that many again when the weather is reliable enough to open the back patio.

“It’s like having another restaurant when that’s open,” Pezzolo said.

I was speaking with her in the small, busy kitchen of the Ravenous, where she and a sous chef finished the late lunch for a few stragglers and began the dinner prep. The air was redolent of thyme.

“We plan on having much the same menu, but smaller – more concise,” she said over the sizzle of a sauté pan. “We’ll keep the old favorites. Crab Cakes. Ravenous Burger. BLTs for lunch.”

Mark Stark, owner of in town and several other restaurants in Santa Rosa, purchased the business earlier this year. According to Willi's general manager Nick Izzarelli, the Stark plan is for a Spanish-style small plates or "tapas" menu at the restaurant, to be called Brava. It should open in June, Izzarelli said.

The relocated Ravenous restaurant should open sometime in April, “about the 20th” according to Pezzolo. That means it will only be three weeks between Ravenous Burgers.

“My daughter will still be baking bread [at the new location]," said Pezzolo. "We plan to try a 'good morning' menu – coffee, scones or a coffee cake, and one savory dish. Not a full-on breakfast, though.”

Like the Ravenous, the new restaurant will be open five days a week, including for brunch on weekends.

Pezzolo reminded me that the original Ravenous on North was opened by Jennifer Schmitt in 1990, daughter of the French Laundry founders Don and Sally Schmitts. (Thomas Keller took over the Yountville landmark in 1994). Her brother Johnny Schmitt is currently chef at the Boonville Hotel, and he is likewise a former Healdsburg resident.

Schmitt sold the restaurant to John and Joyanne Pezzolo in September 1991, and while the Pezzolos remain business partners, they have since separated.

The Ravenous moved to the Center Street location ten years ago, taking over from the Blue Rose Cafe. The location was a dress shop for a period, and in the early 1990s a bagel cafe.

The Ravenous achieved some after-hours notoriety a couple years ago with late night performances by local musicians, but the city frowned on the practice. While Pezzolo confirms March 31 as the closing date of the restaurant, she left open the possiblity of some music over Easter weekend, April 7 - 8.

Over the years the smaller location has occasionally opened back up as the Ravenette, but its tiny floorplan and kitchen made it a struggle.

But Joyanne Pezzolo is willing to try it again. “It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It’s been 10 years since we’ve been here – there are a lot of memories, and there have been a lot of people. But I can’t thank everyone.”

She went back to stirring the pan, and there seemed to be tears in her eyes. I didn't see any onions.

Tracy Logan March 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I will update our Wine Road Concierge Section to reflect this change in venue....
olivia March 31, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Dear John & Joyanne, Very good, change can be wonderful if one is open to the movement and not locked down by sentiment, guilt and nostalgia..congratulations Ravenous Cafe & Lounge! Looking forward to "Breakfast" :)) xo
Kc Mosso February 13, 2014 at 09:49 PM
The city might have frowned on the late night music, but the locals and tourists loved it:)

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