Almanac

News - October 5, 2011

Customers rescue Ladera's Round Table Pizza restaurant

by Dave Boyce

With the help of the community, a crisis has passed at the Round Table restaurant on Alpine Road in Ladera.

Longtime customers aiming to do what they could to continue the 24-year presence of this pizza place in the Ladera Community Shopper shopping center contributed a total of some $4,500 in recent days to help restaurant owner Jim Meola pay off old debts.

"Apparently, there was a grass roots effort to keep me here in the community and they made it work," Mr. Meola said in a telephone interview. "It was really amazing, what the community has done. You feel so appreciated and loved."

Nino Gaetano, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who collected the checks at his Portola Valley office, said he counted 90 donors over the four days of the campaign, including some who went over the recommended $45 per person. "The community rose up and did it," he said. "It was awesome."

Mr. Gaetano, a third-generation Portola Valley resident, got involved "to keep Main Street going in Ladera," he said. "We just want to help (Mr. Meola) out. He's a vital member of our community."

The property management company was "very gracious" in working to keep the restaurant open, he added.

Mr. Meola's debts were a legacy of his pizza place at 3550 Alameda de las Pulgas in unincorporated West Menlo Park, which closed in April 2009 after 25 years.

Asked if this infusion would end his worries, he said it would, adding that it was hard to accept such a gift. "The generosity of the community," he said. "I'm speechless. I'm so overwhelmed by it.

The restaurant serves about 2,000 customers a month, seats 40 and employs 18 people, Mr. Meola said.

The effort reminded campaign coordinator Trish McBride of "It's a Wonderful Life," the popular 1946 movie in which a small-town community rallies to rescue a savings-and-loan bank from its debts.

"It's kind of like everybody's pitching in," she said. "In general, it's been a very positive thing."

Comments on an online forum suggested replacement by an upscale establishment, such as a restaurant "with wine and all that fancy foodie stuff," Ms. McBride said. "I think we need to preserve this. We need somewhere that will serve our kids' community."

This Round Table tracks the order history of its phone-in customers, allowing them to call and order "the usual," she said.

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