An Italian restaurant and market will fill the old Bistro 33
After months of restaurant closures, here’s finally some good news: An Italian restaurant is soon to fill Davis’ best food court – Old City Hall.
While the owners have experience in upscale cuisine in Napa and around the world, the new restaurant, Mamma, will offer affordable, fresh and customizable pastas, pizzas and salads, as well as a Italian specialties inspired by Dean & DeLuca.
But here’s the best part: Part owner Michael Galyen lives in Napa but grew up in Davis. He built the concept with Arnaud Drouvillé, who has worked for several Michelin starred restaurants around the world. Drouvillé grew up in France, but his family is from southern Italy.
The pair signed a lease on Friday with Engstrom Properties. The former site of Bistro 33 at 226 F St. includes 8,000 square feet of dining space and a 4000 square foot patio. They plan to open Mamma in June. Their lease requires it to open in July.
The historic building once housed the Town Hall and, later, the Davis Police Department. Bistro 33 opened in 2003. Engstrom purchased the property from the Town of Davis in 2017.
After 17 years of activity, Bistro 33 closed in April 2020. Its lease was due to expire in August. Owners and brothers Matt and Fred Haines also closed their flagship Sacramento restaurant, 33rd Street Bistro, in March 2020.
Mamma’s announcement is good news, coming just days after the October 1 closure of the Vere Irish Pub. De Vere’s was the second largest restaurant in the city center of the city, after the already vacant Bistro space.
Galyen and Drouvillé met when they opened a Japanese restaurant Morimoto in Thailand, a country Drouvillé had lived in for 17 years. Galyen is an experienced restaurant manager, including a dozen years at the upscale Don Giovanni bistro in Napa. Today, Galyen owns NapaSport Steakhouse and Lounge, and plans to split her time between there and Mamma.
Stuck in Thailand due to the pandemic, the couple began to brainstorm restaurant ideas. Initially, it was to improve NapaSport. But Galyen was also looking for a partner and a space for something new.
“COVID has allowed us to stop time, clean up the slate and reinvent ourselves,” Galyen said. “We both had a lot of these ideas on how to pull new concepts in pandemic catering and combine them with the traditional cuisine we all know and love.”
During their collaboration, Drouvillé made pizzas one day, and pasta another. If he ever found the right place, Galyen thought, he would love to serve something so fresh.
Shortly after, a friend of Davis commented on one of Galyen’s Facebook posts. Come back to Davis, she joked. Place du Bistro 33 was open.
He cold called Engstrom Properties.
“You have to see this space,” he said to Drouvillé. “Oh my god – the patio.”
“We have a concept that is going to turn Davis’ world upside down,” he said on Tuesday. “There are some good restaurants in Davis, but there has never been a great restaurant. He never really got what we’re going to bring.
Galyen has several memories related to the city of the old town hall. His wife’s paternal grandmother, the late Jean Bonekat, celebrated her 90th birthday at Bistro 33 about eight years ago. A few years later, during a lunch with friends, one of them joked: “When are you going to come and take this space?”
But he also remembers spending a few hours in a Davis Police Department jail cell. On a nighttime getaway, he and teenage friends jumped over the community pool fence to swim in their underwear. An officer grabbed them and led them to the old downtown police station. They stayed there in a cell until their parents came to pick them up.
Galyen, a Davis High graduate in 1989, attended Chico State, then worked as a bartender at Café California in Davis before moving on to restaurant management in Sacramento and Napa. He married Krista Bonekat, who graduated from DHS in 1990 and graduated from UC Davis in 1994.
Galyen said they are planning new flooring and paintwork, but no major structural changes to the historic property. The stands will be removed and the bar will be more welcoming with a butcher block top instead of marble.
Much of the inspiration comes from Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. “It was more than a restaurant. It was a tactile experience. That’s what we want to bring to Davis.
They envision an edible garden with things like rosemary, basil, tomatoes, and olive trees. The goal would be educational, not for their cooking.
But at what cost ? Most of the menu will cost under $ 10, and they don’t expect anything to go over $ 20, even for the truffle filling. They said most of the pizzas cost $ 1.50 or less to make. The sales volume will bring the profits.
Build your own pasta dishes will allow customers to choose from around 10 types of pasta and sauces. Drouvillé said his experience with Asian street fares changed his opinion of the prices. “We can do it for $ 20 or $ 4, with the same ingredients and the same flavor, just a different plate and presentation.”
Although mom is fully licensed, don’t expect a bar scene or nightly TVs, Galyen said. “Our bars will be the place where you dine and drink. We are more of a dining house. Restaurant first and bar second.
The market side, filling the former Taverne area of the Town Hall, will open at 7 or 8 a.m. The grocery café, with salads, sandwiches, cold cuts and desserts, will stay open later. Students need more quality late-night take-out food options, no bars, Galyen said.
Drouvillé can’t wait to offer the muffuletta sandwich, an Italian / New Orleans specialty layered on a round bun with Italian cold cuts, provolone and a salad of brackish olives. It will only be available on the grocery store side.
The market café will be Italian-style. Desserts will include soft Italian ice cream, pastries, tiramisu, cannoli and panna cotta. Many of them will also be on the restaurant menu.
What about the staff? The partners are not too worried. Help is much more difficult in Napa. “We are good employers. We hope the local workforce will be excited to be a part of it. Tips will automatically be an 18% tip, so waiters don’t have to worry about serving a table of not-so-generous high schoolers, Galyen said.
Chef Drouvillé said he has opened more than 20 restaurants and prefers a staff that is more passionate than experienced. This makes them more open to training.
Galyen added, “We just want to bring a different sensibility to Davis’s food scene. Napa is under intense pressure. It will be good to come and operate in a normal city, and not be in competition with other restaurants.
Deputy City Manager Ashley Feeney recently toured the site with prospective tenants. “It’s great to see this cornerstone property and beautiful patio in the heart of downtown revitalized,” said Feeney. “During our discussions, it became clear that Michael Galyen and Arnaud Drouvillé are experienced operators passionate about their vision and their work. Our municipal team is eager to help them open their restaurant for the community to enjoy. “
Equally enthusiastic is Mark Engstrom, President of Engstrom Properties. “The passion, local connection and extreme talent of Michael Galyen and Arnaud Drouvillé have all come together in a way that we believe will be great for Davis.”
The owner also owns the El Macero Center and a property in Oak Tree Plaza, from Nugget Market to CVS, among others.
Engstrom continued, “We are delighted to bring this new concept to Davis. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and people are eager to spend some much-needed time with loved ones, this will be a great option. “
– Wendy Weitzel is a Davis writer and editor. Its Comings & Goings business column airs on Sundays. To see his spreadsheet of businesses that opened and closed during the pandemic, visit https://bit.ly/DavisEntreprises. Follow on Facebook at @ComingsGoings.