Since Cafe Borrone opened nearly 25 years ago, Menlo Park has made it its "go-to" place. In the Readers' Choice 2013 competition, Almanac readers voted the cafe a winner in five categories. Now MarketBar, scheduled to open in February, will give a new dimension to the community's favorite gathering place.
The "Market" is the creation of Cafe Borrone owner and president Marina Borrone and her husband, executive chef Josh Pebbles. Located around the corner from the cafe in space vacated by Cedro Ristorante Italiano, the new restaurant will have an Italian flair, reflecting the couple's many trips to Italy.
The bar eatery section will offer guests "a casual space where you can enjoy a classic Italian cocktail, an oyster, a bowl of ravioli or savory meats, while soaking in the atmosphere: a little of the old world with a dash of the new," according to borronemarketbar.com.
The "Market" area will feature rotisserie chicken, pasta, sauces, focaccia and pastries. Most items will be food to finish at home. Steak frites and other bistro favorites will be available for guests to take to their favorite table. (A few marble-top tables are located inside, and there is plenty of outdoor seating.)
MarketBar will be open for lunch and dinner; however, a customer is welcome to wander in for a morning espresso and bombolone (an Italian doughnut), says Ms. Borrone.
Another important reason for the expansion was to create more kitchen space. "The cafe has a very small kitchen," says Marina. The former Cedro space was completely gutted and new kitchen equipment installed.
In the beginning
Cafe Borrone was founded in 1979 by Roy and Rose Borrone in a building he owned on Broadway in Redwood City. The coffee house and restaurant was a success, but in those days nothing was happening in Redwood City at night.
After 10 years in the business, he moved the cafe to a newly opened Menlo Center building at 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, next to Kepler's Books. It was an instant hit. The joke is that some people came opening day, and never left.
Roy admits the story is almost true. "We have customers who still come every single day." Roy and Rose's welcoming atmosphere and delicious food proved a winning combination that keeps a line out the door to this day.
There are five Borrone children, and they all grew up in the business, busing and waiting tables. Roy was often behind the counter. Rose was in the kitchen or behind the register. The cafe was a real family affair and customers loved it.
The next generation
Marina Borrone is the middle child in the family of five: Tina, Alisa, Marina, Peter and Kristi. Twenty years ago, after graduating from St. Mary's College in Moraga, she decided to make the cafe, where she had worked as a teenager, her career.
In the mid-1990s, she met Josh Pebbles, who came to the cafe as a server when he was 18. Josh grew up around the restaurant business and "fell in love with it," he says. He also fell in love with Marina, and they were married in 2001.
Josh has studied at Greystone, the Culinary Institute of America, and worked in kitchens in Italy. Last March he traveled to Italy to work with three master butchers, learning their techniques. "We went from high-tech to prosciutto hanging from the clothesline," he says. Now he even makes his own sausage.
He and Marina are dedicated to working with organic, sustainable food and obtaining products from local farmers. The MarketBar website says: "The menu will always be reflective of the current condition of the dirt, the weather, the animals, the season of harvest and even the chance of an occasional coyote attack that might enjoy Josh's turkeys before he has the chance to prepare them."
Marina and Josh live in Menlo Park with their three boys: Oliver, 11, Maximo, 8, and Nicco, 5. They are working seven days a week getting ready to open MarketBar. The boys are helping: washing windows, sweeping floors. "The children are so excited. They are part of our team," says their mom.
Roy and Rose are pretty much retired now. Roy, who graduated with a degree in art from UC Berkeley, is an abstract impressionist who works in oils. He has a studio in their Redwood City home and another in their place in Bolinas. Rose still puts in a couple days a week at the cafe, where her original custard recipe is still a diners' favorite.
The Borrones remain close to their children. They are proud of them and of the values they've learned working together in a family business.
In the family's footsteps
Vesta is one of the hottest restaurants in Redwood City. Peter and Courtney Borrone, son and daughter-in-law of Roy and Rose Borrone, are the owners of the cafe, which specializes in handcrafted wood-fired pizza and small plates.
Their eatery is located at 2022 Broadway in Redwood City, the same location where the original Cafe Borrone opened back in 1979. The dining scene in downtown Redwood City is a lot livelier these days. The restaurant has been packed since opening in 2012.
Would-be food critics on Yelp rave about the sausage and honey pizza, green olive pizza, mushroom toast, roasted pears with burrata, kale salad, and lush desserts.
Vesta was named to the 2014 Michelin Bib Gourmand list, and critics comment on the professional, friendly and prompt service at the restaurant. Growing up in the restaurant business, Peter Borrone learned his lessons well. As did his wife, Courtney, whom he met when she applied to work at Cafe Borrone.
Station 1 and Kristi Marie's
Kristi Borrone and Zu Tarazi opened Station 1 restaurant in Woodside in 2010. The restaurant was popular with locals and named to the Chronicle's Best 100 Restaurants list the next year. After the restaurateurs were unable to come to a lease agreement with the property owners, Station 1 closed in December 2013.
Now they are intent on a new project: Kristi Marie's, a cafe and bakery at 318 Arguello St. in downtown Redwood City, scheduled to open in April. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving the couple more time to be with their children Camila, 11, and Santino, 8.
"It's going to be fun working in the same city as Peter and Courtney," says Kristi. Living in Redwood City, she plans to ride her bike to work.
Kristi, the youngest Borrone daughter, also grew up helping out at Cafe Borrone, and Zu worked at the cafe in his late teens, long before becoming a general manager at John Bentley's. The couple say they are enthusiastic about the new venture and eager to become part of Redwood City's restaurant scene.