By Elena Kadvany
Employees-turned-owners revamp Cafe Alto, open new restaurantUploaded: 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.