News

Historic Alpine Inn reopening in Portola Valley on Friday

 

"Wow – this place looks amazing!" said a neighbor, one of the usual 20 to 30 people who have been stopping by every day to see how the refurbishing of Rossotti's Alpine Inn, or Zott's, is coming along.

A couple of private parties over the July 20-21 weekend marked a soft opening for family, friends and construction workers.

The owners have announced that Zott's will reopen to the public on Friday, Aug. 9. For the first couple of weeks, it will open at 5 p.m., co-owner Lori Hunter said. Eventually, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Check its website for updates.)

Since February, work crews have been toiling away to bring the 167-year-old institution back to "the best version of itself," as Hunter puts it. She is leading the project for a group of investors from Portola Valley that includes herself, husband Deke Hunter, and friends Fred and Stephanie Harman, and Jim Kohlberg.

Restaurant veteran Greg St. Claire, who grew up in Woodside and Portola Valley, is an operating partner. His Avenir Restaurant Group consists of Milagros in Redwood City, Town in San Carlos and Nola in Palo Alto. The latter enterprise also involved updating a historic building.

When longtime owner Molly Alexander died two years ago at age 93, her family decided to sell Alpine Inn. St. Claire says a trustee oversaw the place for the last four years, and it became fairly run down, and yet multiple people from the area competed to buy the beloved town fixture at the corner of Alpine and Arastradero roads. According to one published report, the winning bid was over $3.8 million.

Why all the interest? "It's a community asset," says Ms. Hunter. Think of the many memories accumulated by Stanford students, Little League and AYSO players, cycling, hiking and running groups, Hewlett-Packard employees, high school reunion attendees, and long-time locals.

At first Hunter believed the place just needed a fresh coat of paint, but after the property changed hands, the new partners realized that almost everything needed attention, she said.

They were able to rebuild the original coolers, but had to start over in the kitchen because it was "illegal, all home stuff, needed upgrading, had no sink, no grease trap," St. Claire said.

"The whole tavern was full of asbestos," he said.

Workers peeled away five layers of old linoleum before covering the floor with barn wood reclaimed from Half Moon Bay.

All of the original wooden tabletops, picnic tables and benches where patrons carved their names and initials have been converted into paneling outside and booths inside. St. Claire pointed out where his father carved his name as a Stanford freshman.

The new indoor tabletops are made from 150-year-old first-growth redwood taken from a water tank in La Honda and remilled into planks.

The indoor bar looks almost the same after Woodside cabinetmaker Paul Bett touched up some broken bits.

One by one, Ms. Hunter cleaned the old license plates and beer bottles that decorated the walls. The historic photos look sharper, too, now that the films of grease and dust have been removed or replaced with fresh frames.

The owners have brought in some new memorabilia, mostly from Stanford University archives.

The plaques are back. The ones honoring patrons who have drunk a thousand beers are located outside, next to the new 33-foot-long bar that leads to the picnic tables in the beer garden out back.

Ms. Hunter says 500 gallons of fertilizer and some tree trimming helped save the enormous Arizona Blue cypress out there. Some new native sycamores were planted to provide more shade.

The yard has always overlooked Los Trancos Creek, but now people can actually see it: The fence and the shack have been removed. According to St. Claire, the building dated to about the 1970s and served as a residence and office before being abandoned. Asbestos, black mold and lead paint removal drew out the demolition process to three months.

Today the ground is flat, compacted and ready for more creekside diners, rounding up total tavern capacity to 300.

Four porta-potties stand ready for the crowds, supplementing the two remodeled indoor bathrooms, one of which is large enough to meet ADA requirements. New wooden ramps were added on both sides of the tavern for the same reason.

A new storage and office building covered in reclaimed barn wood now sits on the parking lot side of the yard in the same place as a structure that used to be there many years ago, St. Claire said.

He's already talking about Phase II and the plan to build out a "real professional kitchen.

Meanwhile, Executive Chef Sean Agoliati, formerly with Los Altos Grill, is crafting a menu that expands beyond burgers and fries to smoked turkey and chicken, some vegetable offerings, salads, and desserts.

St. Claire said they will use a lot of local produce and "try to represent local wines in the area ... great wine at great prices."

And the tavern will be serving cocktails now that it has a full liquor license.

As for the staff, Ms. Hunter said, "They all have the opportunity to come back."

Founded in 1852 as the Casa De Tableta roadhouse, where country folk could gather to play cards, dance and drink, the property has changed names and owners multiple times, and is registered as the second oldest continually operating tavern in the state.

Woodside architect Stevan Patrick of Midglen Studio has helped guide the refurbishing. "It's been a challenge, but being creative has been fun," he said.

Ms. Hunter has lots of experience with residential remodels and designing vegetable gardens, but this is her first commercial project.

She smiles as she reminisces about the rectangular Zott's burgers served on sourdough bread, and clearly enjoys bringing back a treasure that means something to her and her family.

As she says, all of the partners "have grown up bringing our families here, and want it to live on for another 167 years."

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jul 25, 2019 at 11:24 am

Just wondering: with all this illegal and inadequate equipment, how did AI manage to pass health inspections for so many years? Hmmmmm...


7 people like this
Posted by Nanci
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 25, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Currently restaurants in Portola Valley close at 9pm. Do we really need a restaurant serving alcohol until 11PM in the middle of Portola Valley?


18 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 25, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I am so glad that the historic look and feeling is still there. I was worried it was going to be upscaled to something super high class and would no longer be a family establishment.


9 people like this
Posted by Charlene Margot
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 25, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Charlene Margot is a registered user.

As a Palo Alto native, Stanford alum, and Menlo Park resident, we are delighted to see Zott's come back to life! Where would we go for Cubberley High School reunions, Little League post-game parties, and Stanford alumni get-togethers?


27 people like this
Posted by Danna
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 25, 2019 at 2:49 pm

What a gift to this town! Thank you all you owners and Greg, his family and Sean. We are grateful. Now our whole town has a place where we can gather together outside around awesome food. It is so exciting.


13 people like this
Posted by Mike DiMartino
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 25, 2019 at 3:29 pm

When people care about community, were taught to show character in their actions and have a sense of personal pride, they work their rear-ends off to keep family burger establishments open for all future generations.


3 people like this
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:16 pm

So looking forward to frequenting Zott's!


11 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:20 pm

So exciting!! Thank you everyone for your work and your love.I've written many a Food Party! in the back of Zotts. It's a creative, friendly space, and one of only three places in PV/Woodside we can toast happy hour in the sun. :)


35 people like this
Posted by Meg Abraham
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm

Yes, we really desperately need a place that serves food and drinks until 11pm. Finally we can stay out past the bedtime of a preteen. Im so excited to see it and grab a good meal


2 people like this
Posted by Kaz
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jul 25, 2019 at 9:17 pm

We took a peek and didn’t see the old pinball machines. I hope they’ve found another spot on the property.


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous foodie
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 26, 2019 at 12:35 am

Awesome. That about sums it up!!!!


7 people like this
Posted by Kerry B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 26, 2019 at 9:35 am

Thanks, Deke and partners, for preserving our historic PV roadhouse! So glad we have a casual late night dining and drinking establishment, and looking forward to the new menu.


12 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2019 at 12:20 pm

pearl is a registered user.

The Menlo-Atherton Class of 1959 will be holding it's 60th reunion the weekend of October 4-6th. We will be meeting at Rossotti's on Friday, October 4th at 3pm.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 26, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

They don't have their final permit. When will they officially open?

I'd like to have lunch there on the 11th of August.


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Around 1964 a friend of mine's father worked there and they lived in back where we hung out. The rectangular sourdough buns put on the grille with the burgers were great. I can still taste them. My dad who was a former butcher thought the meat might have been horsemeat. True or not I don't know but they tasted great. I'd ask for a vegetable based burger nowadays. Thanks for reviving this great piece of history!


3 people like this
Posted by Bérubé
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 28, 2019 at 7:30 am

Deke and Lori, what you’ve done with the Harmans and Kohlbergs is great and then bringing in St Claire to run it is true community and PV at its best. Thank you for taking this on and keeping such a local traditional alive. Can’t wait to walk down there and enjoy it all with neighbors and friends.


8 people like this
Posted by Bill Bisgard
a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2019 at 3:01 pm

Thank all of you for keeping the old place going. There were 2 places I could cash a check: Zotts and the Oasis. The "O" is a victim of urban development so only Zotts is left. Glad you're keeping the rectangular burger! Can you put up a picture of Jack Cardwell somewhere? As many times as I returned to the"old sod", I always saw him there.

good luck and a big mahalo for keeping it alive
Bill and Judy Bisgard, Maui


7 people like this
Posted by Larry Eschelman
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 28, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Lori and Deke, congratulations to both of you and your partners. As father, and father-in-law, I have watched from Salem and Menlo Park your decision to invest in, and to rehabilitate "Rissotti's." Attending the soft opening brought back many wonderful memories of my time at Stanford in the '50s and '60s, and I feel certain that all of your efforts will be rewarded in multiple ways. I could not be more proud of you. Again, congratulations!
Dad, Larry


2 people like this
Posted by Rochelle Winston Davies
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 28, 2019 at 10:20 pm

Have such fond memories of Zott’s during my high school years. Class of ‘66 gathered there during our 50th reunion week-end and thanks to all your renovation efforts we’ll be meeting up there for many more years to come. Thank you!!


2 people like this
Posted by Ronni
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 29, 2019 at 3:46 pm

Didn't know this forum existed. Thank you and looking forward to Zott's reopening!


Like this comment
Posted by Leon Jeffries
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 29, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Improvements look pretty good....how about posting the menu? It's not the Dutch Goose or the O, but it will do!!!


4 people like this
Posted by A neighbor within sound range
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 30, 2019 at 12:26 pm

The closing time should be 10pm, the same as for when disturbing the peace is effective. People live within sound range. Some (like myself) go to bed early and need a good night's sleep for work the next day, and can hear the noise from Alpine Inn.


3 people like this
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jul 30, 2019 at 12:49 pm

I hope the permit lets it stay open until 11 pm - I am a night owl and like the idea of a late night new eating place in Portola Valley. I never liked the oblong hamburgers - too greasy - and the yellow jackets used to come after me outside. So I've avoided the place for years - but the alternative food looks much more creative and healthier, so I'm looking forward to trying it.


Like this comment
Posted by A neighbor within sound range
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 30, 2019 at 1:24 pm

I've since been informed that the new owners are sensitive to the homes nearby. My hats off to the new owners and the rehabilitation process. AI looks great and I'm looking forward to being a regular patron.


3 people like this
Posted by WH Smith
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2019 at 9:19 pm

50 years ago or thereabouts ALZA Corp received it's first FDA approval of a drug delivery device and everyone went to Zotts to celebrate. Last year at ALZA's 50 year reunion everyone was invited to go to Zott's after the "official" gathering. Out in the "garden" there was the classic power point presentation explaining how a company with no money, loosing money, made money. It was a great gathering with lots of history and memories and may have been one of the last gatherings last year before The Alpine closed for renovation. Long live Zotts, its history and its future!


7 people like this
Posted by happy
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm

I grew up in Menlo Park in the 60's and 70's. This place was always a go to spot!! I hope they continue the tradition of the square hamburgers! The BEST!!! Drinking beer out back was a rite of passage!!! Fond fond memories!!! So happy they respected the history and importance of this place...too bad the Oasis was not treated as well. I no longer live in CA but if I ever return for a visit...this will be a must stop!!


Like this comment
Posted by H Flamenco
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Aug 13, 2019 at 10:00 am

Glad they saved it! Looking forward to their new menu and the same old ambiance in this hidden gem - the kids enjoyed their square burgers after little league games...time to go back!


3 people like this
Posted by Dogs OK?
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Does anyone know if they allow dogs in the back?


Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2019 at 1:50 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To: Dogs OK?

I just emailed them that question. Will let you know what they say.
I also asked if the dogs had to be on a leash.

pearl


9 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:02 am

While I love dogs - I wish they were not allowed. when we visited over the weekend there were small children with their tonka trucks etc playing in the shredded tree bark , dropping their tidbits of food & the dogs had just been there a few minutes earlier marking their spot. YUK


1 person likes this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm

pearl is a registered user.

TO: Dogs OK?

In her email message to me, Michelle at Rossotti's says: "Dogs are permitted in the beer garden so long as they are well behaved and on leash. Thank you
Michelle"

TO: local

I will pass along your concerns regarding dogs to Michelle at Rossotti's, and will let you know if she responds.

pearl


19 people like this
Posted by Ima Good Boi
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 5:01 pm

"Dogs are permitted in the beer garden so long as they are well behaved and on leash. Thank you
Michelle"

Sweet!!! That's us!! See you there.


Like this comment
Posted by Ann Haley
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Aug 20, 2019 at 9:21 am

As Rudy’s Alpine Inn during the ‘50s, it served the best beers on tap, German Rhine wines, peanuts and simple food. TheKingston Trio played there regularly and spontaneously, of course. It was lovely.


Like this comment
Posted by Duffy
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2019 at 9:38 am

In the 50's memorable times -- great TGIF's with Kingston Trio playing outside in parking lot.


2 people like this
Posted by scot schmierer
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 4, 2019 at 1:13 pm

My mother "Chris" was a charter member of Alpine Hills Tennis & Swim, friends with Sandy. Mom & Dad brought us to Rosotti's in the 50's. I remember the wooden dance floor just to the southwest corner outside the beer garden where they used to have square dancing. I remember the campground between Alpine Inn and the tennis club. We used to ride our bikes to Alpine Hills and stop at Rosotti's for grilled garlic bread for 5 cents-awesome for young kids with no money. Mama Garcia's up the road is another old school early Portola Valley memory. Woodside High's girl's principal Ms. Schollmeyer passed after a head-on in front of Alpine Hills. I miss Bruce Baker and Charlie Cardwell, of the plaque fame. I used to smoke cigarettes with John Alexander--his Tareytons (Yuk !). Rosotti's in my blood.


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