Mangia!: Grass Valley’s La Gastronomia re-opens in new location
Like many people who come to the United States, Rita and Franceso “Frankie” Molin arrived in America with a dream.
They wanted to share the authentic cuisine of their native Venice, Italy, with those who may not have otherwise been exposed.
The Molins opened La Gastronomia in downtown Grass Valley in 2014, offering a selection of meats, cheeses, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. They enjoyed their location on the corner of East Main and South Auburn streets but eventually decided they wanted a bigger spot and one that might be more affordable.
Finding the new location was a challenge. They had purchased all new equipment in 2014 before opening their first store, and were not willing to compromise and move into an existing kitchen.
Then, they received word from their landlord that their rent had been increased and they were to pay an additional $1,200 to become current. This, they decided, was the last straw.
The Molins had to scramble to pack up their merchandise and equipment, all the while trying to notify their loyal customers of the unexpected turn of events.
“It was the worst nightmare ever in my life,” said Rita.
Their final day in the East Main Street location was Dec. 24.
“We started looking for a new place in April of last year,” Rita said. “And we didn’t find anything because we had so much equipment already.”
La Gastronomia found its new location on South Auburn Street in Grass Valley, tucked in a quiet shopping plaza that also houses El Milagro Mexican restaurant and Reel Anglers fly shop.
With much work to do in order to accommodate a food store, the Molins set to work. They unsuccessfully paired with an architect who they said proposed changes they didn’t think were necessary.
“It’s hard to find an architect who will work with the city,” Frankie explained.
Finding their rhythm with another architect, they were more aware of the necessary upgrades, but not by much.
“We had so many problems to understand the right process to get here,” said Frankie. “There’s not anything clear that you can follow the line and do your business. Every time there was something new, and every time you have to find $10,000 somewhere else. Lucky for us we have family.”
The two said they have only survived the last year with the help of family and their new landlord, James Flaherty, who is excited to have La Gastronomia in his shopping center.
“Oh, I love it,” Flaherty said. “We are blessed to have these guys with us, and it has been a very long journey. We all worked together to get their doors open as soon as we could.”
Following eight months of confusion, fees, and other unexpected costs, the Molins are ready to once again share La Gastronomia with those hungry for a taste of old Italia.
‘COME, ENJOY, HAVE FUN’
The Molins continue to serve a wide variety of meats and cheeses from their new storefront. La Gastronomia’s pizzas are cooked in an 850-degree wood-fired oven, fed numerous times per day with oak and madrone, both woods that will burn hot and create the crispy texture common in Italian pizza.
Everything including pasta and breads are scratch-made, and you won’t find any preservatives or pre-packaged ingredients.
All meats and cheeses are imported from Italy, and come from animals who lived a free-range existence. The Molins are insistent that their customers try things the authentic Italian way, which they said can differ greatly from American counterparts.
“That’s why we opened a place,” Frankie said. “To make people understand that the things that they know, maybe they are not the same. You taste our salami, and it speaks for itself.”
The Molins pride themselves on sharing the cuisine of their home country, encouraging all who enter to try things they’ve never had, and after a tumultuous year, they are happy to finally open and share their new space.
“We want to create a situation where families and young people can come, enjoy, have fun,” said Frankie. “We want to do events here and make people happy.”
Frankie Molin said the recently-opened location is “like a rebirth” and that he and his wife want people to taste the traditions of their homeland.
“It is a crime in Italy to send someone away without food,” Rita said.
La Gastronomia is located at 760 South Auburn Street, Suite G, in Grass Valley. They are open Thursday through Monday 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., closed Tuesdays and open late (at 3:30 p.m.) on Wednesdays.
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4231.
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