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Couple brings taste of Italy to Grass Valley

Emily Lavin
Staff Writer
Rita and Frankie Molin own La Gastronomia, the new Italian food and grocery store in downtown Grass Valley.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Rita and Frankie Molin have traveled more than 6,000 miles to bring authentic Italian cuisine to Grass Valley.

The married couple, who both hail from areas around Venice, Italy, relocated to California in January and last month opened La Gastronomia, an Italian deli, at 104 East Main St. The restaurant is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

“It’s hearty meals made fresh every day from scratch,” said Rita Molin, 30.

Opening the deli was a longtime dream for both Rita and Frankie, 31. Both have a background in the food industry; Frankie worked as a chef in Italy, and Rita has worked extensively in food service since she was a teenager.

“We like to cook. We wanted to think of something we could do, but also have fun, live a life where you work but you don’t work because you like what you do.”Rita and Frankie MolinLa Gastronomia

“We like to cook. We wanted to think of something we could do, but also have fun, live a life where you work but you don’t work because you like what you do,” Rita said.

However, Rita said the economy in Italy discouraged the young couple from starting a business back home. So they set their sights on the United States, a place they had both visited many times.

They originally thought about opening a wine bar and tapas restaurant in San Francisco, but the location proved to be too expensive and too crowded for them. Frankie has some extended family members in the Grass Valley area, and the couple visited the area together in 2012 for a friend’s wedding.

“This town looked really good, everybody likes natural food, and there was no real authentic Italian place here,” Rita said.

They came back to the area in 2013 to solidify their plans, and signed a lease on the space in July 2014.

Inside the deli, customers will find a variety of meats and cheeses imported directly from Italy. Rita said the couple buys all other ingredients locally, placing a premium on using fresh, natural foods – the restaurant doesn’t contain a freezer.

One thing customers won’t find when they enter La Gastronomia is a menu. The dishes offered change daily depending on the availability of ingredients, the seasons and what they decide to make in the morning.

“In American markets, you come in and you see the menu on top and you focus on there,” Frankie said. “Here, you come and you focus on the counter.”

So far, offerings have included lasagna bolognese, rosemary and olive oil focaccia bread, veggie balls, fried pumpkin flowers, eggplant parmigiana, grilled tempeh and tiramisu, as well as any kind of sandwich that can be made with the meats and cheeses available.

They make fresh egg pasta by order, will take requests for menu items a couple of days in advance and will also prepare food for special events.

The only drawback to their new space, Frankie pointed out, is that they have no inside seating; it’s not allowed, he said, because the only bathroom in the space is in the back of the building, through the kitchen.

Otherwise, the opening has gone smoothly, and they’ve felt especially welcomed by the community.

“Everybody loves the idea that we’re a small business and they’re like, ‘Oh, I want to support you,’ Rita said. “It’s very nice, it’s good, it makes you feel like home even if you don’t have your family here.”

The couple is looking forward to bringing a taste of their culture to customers in Nevada County.

“We’re excited to be open and share with people,” Rita said.

“They are welcome to come and enjoy and taste and just to see what we have,” Frankie added.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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