Morucci’s: A History

During shelter-in-place, I did some giveaways supporting local businesses. One of them was a gift card to Morucci’s on Boulevard. I had an opportunity to speak with the owner, Robert Fambrini (a very Italian name for the owner of an Italian deli!), and ask a few questions.

He told me he spent 25 years in the Petrini’s market chain, a family-owned business until 1989. It was founded as a butcher shop in San Francisco in 1935 by Italian immigrant Frank Petrini and later expanded to specialize in gourmet foods. At the start of the 20th century, grocery stores were a lot like department stores, with different partners owning and operating their departments.

Robert was in six of the Petrini locations from San Francisco, Novato, and Moraga, to Walnut Creek. When asked what words of wisdom he would give his 18-year-old self, Robert replied, “Go slow. When you are young, you want to conquer the world, however financial issues will arise and you don’t want to extend yourself too far!”

He found trying to manage six locations at once was too much, and in 1989 Petrini’s ultimately sold to a Canadian company. Now he has been happy to focus on just one deli for the last 20 years – Morucci’s, in Walnut Creek. He says it is more profitable and much easier to manage. “It’s been a wild ride,” says Robert.

He said having one bigger deli is always better and that he’s happy it is in Walnut Creek. In hindsight, I wished I’d asked him how the name “Morucci’s” came about, but it was crowded and busy (no surprise to those who have been there!), so I’m grateful for his time.

On the state of things…

The murder of George Floyd has struck a chord with the world. It has created a spark, which has ignited the tinder ignored for decades. Unfortunately, unconscious bias, racism, and racial stereotyping exist. My hope is this movement will create the needed changes and initiate conversations for understanding and acceptance.

I am all for civil disobedience, freedom of speech, and the right to protest. There were thousands who came to Walnut Creek and peacefully protested. The key words are “civil” and “peaceful.” I deplore the few opportunists who choose to loot our cities. They dilute the message of the peaceful protestors and reinforce the opinion of those who are already biased or racist, and cause the police to be more vigilant. To be clear, I believe looting here and nationwide has mostly been done by outside agitators and opportunists who are not associated with the peaceful movement itself.

I live very close to downtown, and the night the looting occurred, I worried rioters would come into my neighborhood and I considered what I would do. The next day, there were some emails asking what we could do to keep our neighborhood safe if that happened. This photo was sent out. I suspect the police were preventing anybody from looting Kaiser, which is directly behind them, but also the main access to my neighborhood. The next night, when I heard helicopters, I felt safer and appreciated the police who are there to protect, though some heavy-handed police actions across the nation has made people skeptical about their intentions. The police, as a general entity, obviously have issues to fix. Their main duty is to serve and protect, and most do that admirably.

As a result of the looting on Monday, our beautiful town of Walnut Creek is boarded up. My heart also goes out to all the businesses who had to shut down or restrict their business activities due to the mandated shelter-in-place. They now have had to protect their businesses by boarding up the windows or repairing damage caused by the looting. The downtown area was closed off for a few days and there are very few who are wandering down there. Please continue to support them in whatever way you can. The day after the looting, many residents came downtown to help clean it up. Kudos to all who did. I only heard about it afterward – otherwise, I would have been there too.

I debated about posting this because there is fear in sharing it. Fear that I will say something wrong, offend somebody, or not say enough. I believe we all have a voice and we should express it when something is a concern and stand up for what is right. This is what protesting is all about and we should stand up for what we believe in. Our voices should be heard. Vote. Strive to make a change for good. Be heard.

I will end this with a quote by James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

“Broadway Club” coming to Walnut Creek

The seemingly always rotating lot where Corner’s Tavern and Bing Crosby’s have been is getting another new tenant. This time, it will be a concept called Broadway Club. From what I understand, it will be a music, dinner, and drinks club.

Image result for broadway club walnut creek
Courtesy of BroadwayPlaza.com

One thing I’m not sure about is how they will justify charging $20 or more to see a cover band, when you can get a similar musical experience for $5 at Dan’s (or for free some nights in Broadway Plaza!)? On the surface, it doesn’t seem worth it to me.

They will cater to events or corporate rental space, which could work. Maybe if it becomes a fun place to meet people like Bing Crosby’s was, they will make something out of it. We will see! I personally don’t really want to visit and pay that much for a cover band, but I’ll see how it all plays out. I would enjoy upcoming artists – maybe somebody like Alejandro from last year’s runner-up on American Idol.

What are your thoughts? Where is your go-to place for music downtown? Do you see yourself paying extra for a bigger, newer space to enjoy a band? Have you been? Would love your feedback.

DeAfghanan is a new flavor in Walnut Creek

I love variety, especially when it comes to food and other cultures. Cinco de Mayo, which used to occupy the space next to San Francisco Creamery, is now a Kabob House called DeAfghanan. I went recently and was pleasantly surprised.

The owner, Wais Omar, who is pictured below, left Kabul, Afghanistan in 1979 and moved to Fremont. There is a large Afghani population there, so that’s where he got his start with restaurants. He’s been cooking Afghani food for a long time, and you can tell! The meal was excellent.

Of course, we ordered a chicken Kabob, just like the one he is holding. We were asked if we wanted white or brown rice. The brown rice is really white rice with some special seasoning, which was recommended. And it was the right choice. We were also given some flatbread with a spread that most likely was some sort of yogurt dip.

Wais was a gracious host, who gave us a free eggplant appetizer that was out of this world! I really enjoyed my visit to DeAfghanan, and a vast improvement from the last establishment that lasted maybe six months. I look forward to going back and trying something new! The portions are a good size and if you are not too hungry, they could be split. I can see having a cold beer with these dishes once their liquor license is in hand. I would love to hear what you think!

Art Town: Lululemon Tree!

Sometimes, we can find some of the best art in the most random places in town. For instance, did I expect to see a really cool piece while wandering past Lululemon of all places? Definitely not. But here we are!

The store has a really interesting matted tree on its entrance, that looks sort of like a shadow and sort of like a permanent installation. Obviously it is there to stay, but it still kind of sneaks up on you until you pull back and look at it! The city of Walnut Creek is big on Art and require developers to have some sort of art at any new building project.

I have to say, a storefront like this is much more appealing to me than just a regular one with a bunch of signage and branding. What appeals to me most is it is unexpected, but blends in well.

Have you noticed any other uses of this style in downtown or around Walnut Creek? Send me pictures! I might feature it on my next Art Town blog! One that comes to mind is a past blog in front of the building across from Target – the trees on the front of the building look like shadows, but it is really hard to tell that is actually a piece of art.

Art Town: Fountains

With so much changing around downtown Walnut Creek at any given moment, it’s sometimes nice to reflect on the places that have been around for years. One of those places is the J. Rockliff real estate building at the corner of N. Main and Civic.

You’d recognize the building by its brick-on-brick look. It sits right across Civic from City Hall and diagonally across from La Scala. It almost looks like a mini-brick castle. Anyway, they have fountains out front that I never stopped to look at before, and they are gorgeous!

The fountains complement the property and the real eye-catcher is the wrought-iron statue in the middle, perched atop a mosaic base. It’s quite mesmerizing up close!

Take a minute to recognize an old classic in Walnut Creek next time you’re in the area. With buildings and blocks changing all the time, it is nice to see something stay the same.

Another brewery in town!

You won’t believe this! Okay, maybe you will. There’s another brewery in Walnut Creek. We just finished recapping Rotator Brewery a couple of weeks ago, and now here I am to tell you about the San Diego-based Mike Hess Brewery that is situated in The Orchards shopping center on Ygnacio and Oak Grove!

The Mike Hess Brewery website isn’t working yet, so I can’t link you. But I stopped by to check it out and got a few pictures! The space has lots of seats inside, but the outdoor seating is the place to be. It is partially covered, and they often have live music on the weekends.

I really like the simple, sleek interior, and they had a spacious, cozy outdoor area with couches and a TV. They do host a trivia night every Wednesday, which should be fun, and they really pulled me in when I found it is a dog-friendly place! Bodie is getting old, but he would enjoy a sit on the patio. They don’t serve food, but you can order from the plethora of restaurants in the shopping center and some will bring it over to the brewery (Mod Pizza, Burger Lounge, etc. to name a few).

One cool thing that Mike Hess Brewery has done in the past is run “HessFest,” a charity fundraiser ever year. We can only hope they’ll bring the event up north with them, as Walnut Creek could use a few good brewfests! Go check out Mike Hess Brewery when you can!

Vici expanded!!

Vici, a hip women’s clothing store is expanding. I went to shop and see what changes are on the horizon. Vici, also has a location in Newport Beach, but the one in Walnut Creek is situated at N. California Blvd. and is open from 10 am to 7 pm Monday-Friday (and shorter hours on the weekends).

They are heavily focused on Instagram and their models always look much better than me in the outfit; they have some really cute, trendy clothing at affordable prices in a stylish and contemporary space, albeit small, but that is changing.

Vici calls itself “a haven for the modern woman,” and wants to make the act of shopping in a modern, digital age as effortless as possible. They offer a range of casual pieces to beautiful statement dresses and are known for eye-catching patterns.

As you can see, Vici is expanding with lots more room to show off all their clothing. It has come a long way from a tucked-away space in an office building on Olympic. Give it a look next time you’re out shopping and wanting some of the latest styles. You can always follow them on Instagram – they are constantly showing off their new items.

Art Town: Mural by MCXT

Two renowned Bay Area artists, collectively known as “MCXT,” have been commissioned by Bedford Gallery to complete a mural on the Civic Park Assembly Hall. I got a picture of the finished product, and thought the individual parts were the most interesting. It does brighten up this spot dramatically!

Monica Canilao (MC) and Xara Thustra (XT) teamed up to create the mural, and it looks awesome! MC is an internationally-acclaimed multimedia artist from Oakland who has a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts. And XT is an activist for art and a member of San Francisco’s “Mission School” art movement.

True to form, the two artists put together a dazzling display of geometry, wildlife, and color to add a nice splash of eye-popping creativity to downtown Walnut Creek. I love the push over the last several years by our town to embrace art and make it a focal point of the everyday experience.

I initially stopped by while MCXT were painting it. They were on their lunch break, there was rain forecasted for Friday (and it was Wednesday), and so they were hurrying to get it finished. I mentioned Monica looked liked Frieda and she acknowledged the reference and said people ask her if she is trying to copy Frieda and her response is she is just being her authentic self.

I also asked about the surface they were painting on as it looked very smooth for an old building. Xara said the city prepped it before they started so there was a clean smooth surface to work with. If you spend some time in front of it, you will realize it is quite intricate, because just in passing it looks like some simple modern art piece. Please take a browse and enjoy.

Props to MCXT and the Bedford Gallery for another work of sheer energy and beauty to add to Walnut Creek’s growing collection. Have you had a chance to stroll through Civic Park and see the mural in person? What did you think of it?

Rotator Taproom rotates in

You won’t be surprised to hear this, folks! There is yet another new brewery to check out in the East Bay. The craft beer boom has really been embraced by Walnut Creek in the last half-decade, and Rotator Taproom is the latest to join the party.

I went to check it out recently and thought they did a fantastic job advertising themselves: happy hours, yoga events, and even poker nights were broadly marketed to anyone who walked in. They had a ton of beer on tap and also some bar snacks!

When I went, we tried four-beer flights for just $12 and thought the selection was pretty good. I also had a refreshing grapefruit lager. They serve beers from a ton of different breweries, and the price was definitely fair for the amount of beer you got in each pour.

Rotator Taproom is a little off the beaten path in the north part of downtown, but still very easily accessible. It’s hidden away on Pine street with lots of automotive shops, just around the corner from either Pinky’s Pizza or down from Walnut Creek BART. Parking can be limited and one of my servers was annoyed with all my questions, but I would recommend checking it out if you like to taste a wide range of beers, they had a lot of IPA’s even triple IPAs!