Restaurant Lozano, a Sierra Madre staple since 1981, closed its doors several months ago and the space will soon be home to a restaurant from the owners of popular South Pasadena eatery Mike and Anne's.
"This was an interesting, wonderful, little challenge and it felt near and dear to our hearts to really do something wonderful for the community," said the restaurant space owner Steve Riboli, a Sierra Madre resident who owns the San Antonio Winery with his family. "It will be wholesome, have good sized plates that are attractively priced, and a nice unpretentious vibe."
After buying the property in the spring from the former Restaurant Lozano owners and restaurateurs, Riboli researched possible tenants.
"The last thing you want to do is hurt an existing restaurant that was already doing business in the city with a similar style restaurant," said Riboli. "So we took a look at what the community needed."
Riboli and architect Frank Martinez of Martinez-Hostettler drew up preliminary design plans and once Mike and Anne's owners Steve and Ashley Ahn were on board, Steve Ahn took more control of the design and décor.
While Riboli predicts the restaurant possibly opening in two months, Ahn thinks that is hopeful but in his experience it may be more like three to four months.
"So far the transition has been really smooth," said Ahn. "Steve [Riboli] has been very helpful but I think the challenge coming up is to deal with the health department because they always have issues. I am hopeful that I think we are always prepared for challenges from the city and health department."
As of last Monday, the space was gutted, and the walls and stucco ceiling had been sandblasted to expose more wood. According to Martinez, more square footage will be added in the back of the building to make the restaurant more comfortable and add storage. The windows will also be replaced to be fully operable so the whole wall can open during the summer time to give an indoor/outdoor ambiance.
"I think it is going to have a similar feel [to Mike and Anne's]," said Ahn. "The South Pas building has all those windows which is a huge part of the decoration and feel and the nice thing about the Sierra Madre building is it's a concrete box so we are really trying to utilize the exposed concrete and wood beams. We are being careful not to make it too cold though and giving a warm, rustic kind of industrial look."
Though the name has not been completely finalized, Ahn thinks it will be called Wistaria Restaurant and Grill, paying tribute to the famous Sierra Madre vine.
The Sierra Madre restaurant will have about 60 percent of the Mike and Anne's menu, said Ahn, who wants to install a proper pizza oven in the Sierra Madre location and start making Northern Italian-style thin crust pizza from scratch. He also wants to add Southern-influenced comfort food like buttermilk fried organic chicken with sides like grits or collard greens.
Tony Alcazar, Mike and Anne's chef who previously served as sous chef under former Langham Huntington Hotel chef de cuisine Craig Strong, has been consulting on the menu but Ahn has not determined yet if he will hire a chef de cuisine for the Sierra Madre restaurant.