Appetizers
March 12, 2007
Midtown: Construction Zone

As we ambled about midtown for Second Saturday this weekend, both the art and the wine (see below) got overshadowed by the construction or remodeling of so many restaurants.

Along J Street near 28th Street, for one, restaurateur Peter Torza and some colleagues were huddled in the back of his latest venture, taste-testing pizzas for Gianni's Trattoria, taking over space previously occupied by Torza's Black Pearl Oyster Bar, as well as adjoining quarters. From our glimpse, the restaurant, while unfinished, looks like it will be one chic joint. The sign's already up, saying "Stazietta e Mangia," Neapolitan for "shut up and eat." Patrons should be able to start doing that on or about March 31, when Torza is hoping for the grand opening.

Nearby, on the corner of 28th and J, the motorcycles that long have been fixtures in the front windows of Centro Cocina Mexicana are gone, raising the question, What's going on? Paragary Restaurant Group, whose properties include Centro, is about to launch a remodeling of the place, expected to get under way in April, says assistant manager James Buchanan. The motorcycles will be back, but likely farther back in the restaurant. As to the windows, just keep an eye on them.

Not much action yet at 2416 J St., where a Sacramento branch of Folsom's Chicago Fire Pizza is to open this summer, helping triple the opportunities for pizza along just a short stretch of the boulevard, with Original Pete's just to the west, the nascent Gianni's Trattoria just to the east.

untitled.bmpSacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

The decorative iron fence along the 18th Street side of Zocalo at 18th and Capitol, along with the patio it enclosed, is gone, but not for long. The fence, as well as a slightly expanded patio, could be up and open as soon as this weekend, says co-owner Jim Johson. Two trees along the patio have died and are being replaced and repositioned, giving the restaurant an opportunity to straighten out and lenthen the fence, put in a few more lights, and add a couple more tables. On the Capitol Avenue side of the restaurant, in the meantime, Johnson and partner Ernest Jimenez are still deciding what to do with space they are taking over between Zocalo and Dragnonfly, but an upscale tequila bar hasn't been ruled out, especially after a recent weekend scouting mission to check out what's hot in Las Vegas.

Across Capitol Avenue from Zocalo, the original site of Java City is dark as it also is being restyled to take better advantage of midtown's increasing nightlife traffic. Details of what the project will involve weren't immediately available.

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