September 11, 2006
Corner Pocket

Looks like the third time again could be the charm. At least the tone was upbeat, the crowd was convivial, and the redesign was light and bright when the Paragary Restaurant Group quietly unveiled its latest venture Friday night.

Two restaurants to occupy the big and blocky former Perfection Baking Co. at 15th and R streets in midtown Sacramento have stumbled, first the pan-Asian restaurant Sammy Chu's, then the New American bistro Icon.

Now the company is going with two proven concepts, Cafe Bernardo for the back dining room, Monkey Bar for the up-front tavern, only it isn't being called Monkey Bar, but R15.

Randy Paragary says he sees R15 as a neighborhood bar, but it clearly has the potential to draw a clientele from beyond the immediate zip code. For one, it's big; in addition to the central bar, one of the former dining rooms has been converted into a pool hall with four tables, and the intimate dining nooks along one side of that room have become semi-private game rooms. The place is appointed with 13 large plasma screens, to be tuned to sports early in the evening, music videos later on, and Paragary and his partners have assembled an extensive library of selections to keep the crowd entertained right up to last call.

Kurt Spataro, the group's executive chef, pretty much has retained the menu of the other Cafe Bernardos in such signature dishes as the Thai noodle salad, grilled salmon BLT and carrot cake. At the same time, however, the menu looks a bit more extensive and ambitious. At least I can't recall other branches of Cafe Bernardo with pizzettas of grilled eggplant and cherry tomatoes, or entrees like the grilled flatiron steak and spaghettini with shrimp and basil.

In the most striking design departure from the past, designer Bruce Benning gave the building a fresh coat of bright raspberry paint to help it stand out on the corner, and softened the hard industrial look of the back room with a floating frame of crown molding and a series of whimsical chandeliers of various styles and heights.

This time, the concept has the look and feel of being a better fit for building, neighborhood and potential clientele.

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