Employees-turned-owners revamp Cafe Alto, open new restaurant | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Almanac Online |

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By Elena Kadvany

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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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Employees-turned-owners revamp Cafe Alto, open new restaurant

Uploaded: Jan 20, 2015
For more than a decade, 473 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto has housed Italian restaurants, one after another. There was Francis Ford Coppola's Cafe Niebaum-Coppola in 2002 and then the more casual Cafe Rosso & Bianco, followed by an Italian-style steakhouse. Next came Café Renzo, which opened in 2010 and recently morphed into Café Alto after the owners parted ways.

Two waiters during the Alto-Renzo era have now turned owners, hoping that a physical revamp and a more focused, authentic menu will inject longer-term success into the space.

Eduardo D'ignoti and Mario Alessi, who both hail from Sicily, took over in the fall of last year to open their Arte Ristorante. Ask D'ignoti what they have changed, and he'll answer, "everything."

They remodeled the space, adding a mirrored divider where there used to be booths down the center of the large space, clustering lunch tables in the front and white-tablecloth, fully-set tables for dinner or more upscale meals in a back section. The bar and bathrooms were also significantly redone.

The menu has also been cut down; the new ownership is bringing a focus on seasonal, higher quality ingredients (meaning higher prices) for fewer items.

D'ignoti, a painter and decorator who came to the United States eight years ago, has overseen the physical revisions while Alessi focused on the food. Alessi worked as floor manager for Café Alto and Renzo and also helped open Café Riace near California Avenue.

The name of the new restaurant is a marriage of their two worlds and passions ? art and food. D'ignoti, clearly passionate about art, said he wants the restaurant to become a venue for exhibits and art-related events.

"I hope we've created something very special," D'ignoti said.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by A_Fan, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Jan 21, 2015 at 8:25 pm

What about the new Cho's Restaurant in Los Altos?

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 21, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Looking at the Cho's Facebook page (and comments/discussion), it appears that they have not yet opened as of a few days ago. Even if they had opened, that's probably not enough time for Elena to review the restaurant.

I'm certain she will review both venues when she gets a chance.

That said, if you liked the old Cho's, it shouldn't be so hard to set your foot down into the new location to try it out. Someone needs to be their first customer at the new location.

Moreover, Cho's wasn't/isn't a pricey night out. It's affordable, you don't need to take out a second mortgage to eat at Cho's.

 +   3 people like this
Posted by John Sack, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

The new restaurant is called Arte.

While I don't recall the wine list at Renzo, I can say that the Italian portion of the wine list at Arte is extensive and interesting. And there are bottles in many price ranges and Italian regions. And Mario has been able to talk about each wine I've asked about on the list, and compare and contrast.

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