July 27, 2006
Sacramentan's Culinary Profile Rising

For seven years during the 1990s, brothers Thomas and David Schnetz owned the sandwich shop and coffee house Marshall Grounds along J Street, in a slip of a space now occupied by Black Pearl Oyster Bar.

David Schnetz still is here, buying and refurbishing real estate. Thomas Schnetz, who graduated from McClatchy High School in 1984, still is in food service, making his living and raising his culinary profile in Oakland and Berkeley.

After he and his brother gave up Marshall Grounds, he returned to the East Bay, where he earlier had earned a degree in political science at the University of California.

There, Thomas Schnetz and partner Dona Savitsky opened the regional Mexican restaurant Dona Tomas at 51st Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland in 1999. Three years ago, they opened a second restaurant, the taqueria Tacubaya, along Fourth Street in Berkeley.

They have a third restaurant in the works for Oakland, but that isn't expected to open for another six months. It will be a departure from the Mexican formula working well for them. Instead, it will be an American bistro with "old school cocktails" and a menu that reprises some of the food from Marshall Grounds.

In the meantime, Schnetz and Savitsky are busy promoting their newly published cookbook, "Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking" (Ten Speed Press, $29.95, 240 pages). As part of that, Schnetz will be signing books at the posh Napa Valley market Dean & DeLuca in St. Helena from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Is Schnetz at all intrigued about returning to his native Sacramento to open another restaurant here? Yes, but no plans are in the works, and he likely only would do it if his brother also were involved in the project. In the meantime, he enjoys living within five miles of his two restaurants and the third taking shape.

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