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Palo Alto standby Osteria sold to new owners

Uploaded: Jul 31, 2015
After almost three decades of serving traditional Italian food in downtown Palo Alto, the Piccinini family is turning over the keys of their restaurant, Osteria, to another longtime local restaurant family.

Giuseppe and Mauricio Carrubba, whose father owns Caffe Riace on Sheridan Avenue in Palo Alto, are the new owners of Osteria, the name and spirit of which they're maintaining, said Greg Piccinini, who co-owned Osteria with his father, Angelo Piccinini.

Greg said Friday that the sale was motivated by a desire to spend more time with family.

"It was really about not making my close friends and family restaurant widows and widowers any longer," Greg said. "Maybe (it's) not that dramatic but at a certain point ? we don't have a breakfast, but having lunch and dinner occupies you from early in the morning potentially to late at night."

Greg met Giuseppe and Mauricio's father Franco more than a decade ago. Franco asked Greg, who had been working in Osteria since he was 22 years old, to show his older son, Giuseppe, the restaurant ropes. Giuseppe was an undergraduate student at Santa Clara University at the time, Greg said.

The two Carrubba brothers went on to help their father open Caffe Riace in the 1990s, (though they're no longer involved with the restaurant) then various cafes on the Stanford University campus and later their own catering company, Just Catering, which they recently sold. Franco also took over a historic Half Moon Bay grocery store in 2007, embarking on a rocky business deal and journey in the community.

Greg said he's confident in the brothers, who over the years have developed a "top-to-bottom understanding from sandwiches to fine dining (and) things in the middle."

"I've really admired the way they've gone about their business so when it was decided between my father and I that we would have to sell, I called up Giuseppe," he said.

Giuseppe did not return requests for comment.

Greg said the Carrubbas have kept the Osteria staff intact as well as most of the menu, besides eliminating a few items. The two head chefs have been with the restaurant since the beginning, as well as some waiters.


Osteria sauté chef Juan Hernandez preparing a meal during lunch service in 2004, the year the restaurant celebrated its 18th anniversary. Photo by Don Feria/Palo Alto Weekly.

The Carrubbas also did some interior upgrades over the last several weeks.

Osteria, which opened at 247 Hamilton Ave. in the bottom floor of the Cardinal Hotel in 1986, was one of many restaurant ventures for Angelo Piccini, who came to the United States from Italy as a teenager and is now in his 70s.


The exterior of Osteria at 247 Hamilton Ave. in Palo Alto.

Angelo got his start busing tables at restaurants in North Beach in San Francisco, according to the restaurant's website. He later opened several San Francisco restaurants with a cousin before moving to Palo Alto.

Less than two years following Osteria's opening, Angelo opened a second Italian restaurant in Menlo Park. But Angelo sold Carpaccio, still in operation on Crane Street, within the year.

Next came Osteria No. 2, opened in 1989 in Presidio Heights in San Francisco.

Over the years in Palo Alto, in the midst of so many trends and restaurants coming and going, Osteria has been remained a reassuring constant for many diners.

"What we tried to do was offer a clean environment with traditional food at a reasonable price. That was kind of our hope and our formula ? not try to chase trends and things like that," Greg said.

He said the restaurant is in good hands with the Carrubbas, who he believes will faithfully continue the Osteria legacy.

"It's been a part of my heart for so long," he said. "I'm not shocked; I'm not sad; I'm not overly happy. I'm just very content and matter of fact that the timing was right."

Read more about Osteria and Caffe Riace in these past restaurant reviews, reaching all the way back to 1998:

- Taste of the times (October 2009)
- Under the Tuscan sun ? sort of (April 2004)
- Caffe Riace more style than substance (November 2005)
- Pasta in a piazza (August 1998)

Plus, a Q&A with Osteria chef Melesio Campos in 1997: One part simplicity, two parts imagination

Comments

 +   5 people like this
Posted by jj, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 31, 2015 at 12:55 pm

It's going to be tough not touching the menu that has not changed in 30 years.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 1, 2015 at 11:22 am

My husband and I have been loyal customers of Osteria for a very long time. I am quite sad about the change in ownership, and I hope the new owners will do their utmost to make Osteria as successful as it has always been.

However, I am concerned, as I only went to Caffe Riace once. I remember it was not a pleasant experience. The food was bland and expensive, the service was slow, and I did not like the huge nude mail statue hovering over our table.

Osteria's wonderful head cook, his cooking staff, and the excellent customer-focused waiting staff ran this restaurant. If these people leave Osteria, then there is little hope the restaurant will be of the same quality in the future.

I will give it a try, and I will post my experience online.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by lisa, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 2, 2015 at 5:04 pm

i've had many great dinners at osteria, always liked the owners
had a few bad experiences at riacce - i hope they dont rock the boat at osteria


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 2, 2015 at 6:39 pm

My suggestion to the new owners as a long-time customer with an MBA. If you want to make your investment in Osteria successful, stay at Sheridan Avenue and let the staff at Hamilton and Ramona do what they have been doing for years. Keep them happy. They keep the customers happy. Don't "fix what ain't broke" and enjoy the profits.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Italian food lover, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 5, 2015 at 9:03 am

I've been a customer and fan of Caffe Riace since it opened and I'm thrilled that the Carrubas (a Palo Alto family - hurray!) have taken over the reins of Osteria. They set high standards for delicious food served in a warm, friendly atmosphere. We're lucky to have them as restaurant owners in Palo Alto. Good luck Carrubas!


 +   9 people like this
Posted by fanofOsteria, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 5, 2015 at 11:14 am

I have been going to Osteria since they opened. I sure hope they keep the cooking staff that make the food delicious. Hard to see if some of them go, and they get nothing in the way of lay off payment. Please Carrubas family keep the wonderful cooking staff


 +   4 people like this
Posted by the joker, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Aug 5, 2015 at 11:59 pm

> did not like the huge nude mail statue

Gives a whole new meaning to "The Postman Always Rings Twice".... (maybe he's asking for his clothes back)


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Susan, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 6, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Osteria and owner Greg are what makes for one of the busiest corners in downtown. It is the food, waiters, local ambiance, and Greg that beat the competition, in my opinion. Note to new owners from Riacce's, take good care of the chefs and wait staff, save some of Greg's art on the walls, and don't change the menu to "generic" Italian food. Otherwise, is there the danger of the space becoming just another downtown office?
We will miss you, Greg!


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Peter Setzer, a resident of another community,
on Aug 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Osteria is by far my favorite restaurant in the entire Bay Area. The new owners would be very wise not to change anything on the menu. They also serve the best original sour dough bread so they better not cut any corners with getting some cheaper bread! The service is superior, the food is top notch and the ambiance is perfect! Please, just run the restaurant and don't try to be cute and change things for the sake of change! I will miss Greg as well!


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm

To The Joker: My husband made a similar comment. I realized it should have been "male."

I promised an update on Osteria after I visited the restaurant again, and, yesterday-evening we did.

The Good:

1. First of all, the head cook, his staff, and the servers, except for one, are all working under new management, and they seemed happy with it. The "male" waiters now wear ties!
2. At the back of the restaurant, there are now one or two large mirrors. It adds to the atmosphere.
3. There are now candles on the table, and they are using new plates and glasses.

Now for the Other:

1. The food was always piping hot in the past. Yesterday, the meals my husband and I had were warm. This is THE first time this ever happened, and it disappointed me. It may have to do with the new (more elegant) plates. However, I prefer to have plain plates that come from a warming oven with piping hot food.
2. The meals were smaller and a little more expensive.
3. The menu had many of the same choices, but my "Pollo Paillard, disappeared. However, the head cook (who knows me well) made it for me. He is a treasure!
4. We were with a group of nine guests, and only one basked of bread was provided. We had to specifically ask for another basket a couple of times.
5. The candles were a nice touch; however, there was old candle wax stuck to the walls of the small glass containers. IKEA sells lovely tea light containers and tea lights. May be an idea.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by mc, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 7, 2015 at 7:23 am

There was no turnover at that corner,stability,no conversion to office space,on historic Ramona Street,the same great menu and great food and great, friendly staff, and Greg who welcomed everybody and knew just about everybody who came in there. The new owners from all indications realize
that tweaking it makes sense but no major change is what is called for at that corner,as a new office building goes up directly across the street.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Not Cafe Riace!, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 7, 2015 at 9:55 am

Agree with Anneke that Caffe Riace is unimpressive. The pasta dishes were overcooked and bland (how can you screw up pasta). A very cringe-worthy meal. Hope they do not screw up Osteria.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Cwetka, a resident of another community,
on Aug 7, 2015 at 9:43 pm

The Osteria was an exceptional place. If I craved pasta it was theirs. From A-Z on the menu there was never a disappointment. Food was served hot & plentiful, the servers were top notch, and the cooks the BEST in their field. Keep the Chefs, waiters and the menu and you will
Have the Osteria. Make changes and you can close the place. At least for the ones who have come for decades and brought more customers.
I've already heard the food is not hot (plates changed)
The Osteria was "ONE OF A KIND". You abuse it and you will loose it.
I wish Greg all the best and am truly sorry that such a landmark has been sold to the owners of Cafe Riacci's


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Maurizio Carrubba, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 8, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Hello there, if you would like comment I would be happy to speak with you. Also I would like to add that my brother and I do not and have not ever owned Caffe Riace. That is my parents location that they run and operate independently of my companies. We have kept most 99% of the staff including the chefs who have been there for over 25 years, and we intend to keep Osteria as original as it was when our good friend Greg passed it to us.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by mc, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 10, 2015 at 7:28 am

@Maurizio
Good comments- beautifully said- "we intend to keep Osteria as original
as it was when our good friend Greg passed it to us".


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto , a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:36 am

See negative reviews on Yelp since the sale --- ALL thumbs down. Scroll to the bottom and click on "other reviews that are not currently recommended" to see even more recent (August '15) negative reviews.

This is very disappointing. Why buy this wonderful place just to ignore all that made it great in the first place. The menu is drastically different, unfortunately it is not very good. This new Osteria "Italian" restaurant does not have Italian staples like minestrone soup and many other basics. The gorgeous art is gone and is replaced with giant mirrors - looks cheap rather than cozy. This was our favorite Italian restaurant in PA, now it is just an overpriced mediocre place with bad service. The soup of the day, clam chowder, tasted sweet with way too many diced carrots (strange interpretation - not Italian). My dish (penne with chicken and sun dried tomatoes) was simple and just OK, but for $16.50 it was ridiculously overprices for the portion size of penne with a handful of cubed chicken pieces. No one in my party was impressed with the food, decor and we all hated the service. The wine by the glass was not great either and at $13+/glass is a non starter for the next visit. The service was just about the worst I had in Palo Alto in over a decade, the elder lady waitress was overwhelmed with the new computer system and ran around the place very confused; she spent a great deal of her time playing with the computer rather than servicing tables. OK food, smaller portions than before for $2.50-$4 more for every single item across the entire menu (including soup) adds up to an extra 35% dinner price tag once tax and tip is added. Not a good business formula. I am not coming back.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Italiangirl, a resident of Los Altos,
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:04 pm

It is so sad that everything that we loved about the original Osteria is gone. I don't understand why the new owners continue to deceive the public by not updating the website. The website still gives the impression that the original menu exist.
My absolute favorite pasta dish was the Pappardelle Osteria. When I tried that dish under new ownership it wasn't even close to the original dish.. why keep an item on the menu and change it so much? The soup I ordered was served in a huge fancy bowl that maybe had less than a 1/2 cup of soup. And my favorite dessert gone! The Gianduja Hazelnut Chocolate Flan is off the menu😥. I really think you should changed the name of this restauarnt. All of the Osteria Patrons keep expecting and hoping to find their favorite little Italian restauant still like it was. Stop fooling the public, change your name, update your website with the new menu and have yelp delete all the old beautiful pictures of the delicious food that Osteria used to serve.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Yityui, a resident of Woodside,
on Jul 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm

We a group of 4 went to Osteria and didn't know the owner changed. Surprisedly, the menu is new and the price is 35% higher than before.
The disappointment is as other review, the pasta is not steam hot any more and salty. Few of our favorite pasta disappeared. Also the hazelnut flan is gone. Don't know why they added so many more meat dishes. This was a place, usually we would go at least once per month for pasta and for its simple meat dish special for the day when we lived in Los Altos.

I just wonder does the original chef still there and allow the pasta quality going downhill.

We are people love home cook meal and very picky about restaurents. it was the only restaurant we went for decades in Palo alto regularly when we do not want to cook at home no matter how many restaurants opened in Palo Alto downtown. It is very sad the real Osteria is gone and we will not go back to Palo Alto for dining.

WE DEFINITELY MISS OUR OLD OSTERIA



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