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Saturday, November 27, 2021

New Italian restaurant, marketplace to open in Bistro 33’s former location

Davis native Micheal Gaylen hopes to maintain the location’s history while creating a brand-new dining experience  

 

By JALAN TEHRANIFAR — features@theaggie.org

 

Many people believe that part of Davis’s charm is the history of the town that has been passed on from generation to generation. One of Davis’ historical properties, dating back to 1938, is now being passed to a new generation.

Old Davis City Hall, located at 226 F Street, once served as all of the City of Davis’ administrative offices. According to davisdowntown.com, it housed Davis’ primary Fire Department until 1966, when the Police Department replaced it. In 2003, Old City Hall was refurbished and remodeled into a restaurant called Bistro 33, which has been shut down since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and announced its permanent closure in June 2021.

The recent closure of Bistro 33 has been a disappointment to many Davis residents, particularly fans of its “Mojito Night” tradition. The restaurant released a statement regarding their shutdown on June 19, 2021, which said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not coming to terms on a lease with the new owner of the land, the restaurant would not be reopening.

In recent good news for Davis foodies, a new Italian restaurant and marketplace will take the place of Bistro 33, set to open in June 2022.

The new restaurant, Mamma, will be a new kind of dining experience for downtown Davis, according to co-owner Michael Gaylen. The side of the property facing F Street will be a grab-and-go cafe and the side facing 3rd Street will be a sit-down style restaurant. Gaylen said that the existing patio will have two separate lounges with seating and incorporate Tuscan-style lighting and edible gardens.

Gaylen first began working in the restaurant industry as a high school student here in Davis, where he grew up. He was a dishwasher at Tokyo Restaurant and then served as a bartender at Captain California, both of which have now closed.

He then moved to Napa and began working as a card-carrying general manager at Italian restaurant Don Giovanni for 11 years. After climbing the ranks of the restaurant industry, Gaylen was offered an opening general manager position by the Morimoto groups. According to Gaylen, this position was an incredible opportunity.

“It changed dining in downtown Napa,” Gaylen said. “It was an amazing thing to be a part of that really put my career kind of on the map.”

Gaylen went on to serve as Morimoto’s west-coast director of operations, during which he opened seven restaurants in seven years.

With the knowledge he gained through these experiences, he opened his own restaurant in South Napa, NapaSport Steakhouse, in 2018. Recently, he opened a second restaurant in Napa, Ace and Vine, which is an Asian restaurant cardroom.

Gaylen said that in the process of opening his restaurants, there have been some bumps in the road, but that luckily, a chef he used to work with, Arnaud Drouvillé, helped him sort through them.

“While I was running NapaSport, we had had the wrong chefs in place for a long time, and things were kind of hard for us,” Gaylen said. “Right before COVID, in January 2020, a chef from my past rolled through town.”

Gaylen reconnected with Arnaud Drouvillé, with whom he co-owned a restaurant called Mojimoto in Bangkok, Thailand. Gaylen saw Drouville’s visit to Napa as a sign to ask him for help.

While the pair were working together at NapaSport Steakhouse and Ace and Vine, Drouvillé asked Gaylen an interesting question.

“We sat here fixing my restaurant, NapaSport, and we worked on the Asian restaurant together, and then in that process, he turned to me one day and he asked me, ‘Why do pizzas cost $27 in America?’” Gaylen said.

Drouvillé told Gaylen that making a pizza costs $1, and a high-quality pizza could be made for under $10. Drouvillé then began making pizzas and pastas for Gaylen, which Gaylen credits for the idea for an entirely new Italian restaurant concept.

When someone from Davis reached out to Gaylen via social media informing him that the Bistro 33 lot was up for grabs, he decided the time was right to pursue this new project.

“What we want to do — [what] the chef wants to do — is something where everything is about $20 and under,” Gaylen said. “Pizzas, pastas, appetizers, salads […] creating this huge grab-and-go cafe on one side of that property, where everything would be accessible to high school kids, college kids, to families. Everything would be super affordable with a super high level of quality.”

Gaylen said that they want to create not only a restaurant but also a visual and aesthetic experience. They hope to use the patio on the Old City Hall Davis property to create a garden that allows people to use their senses during their dining experience.

“We’d love to inspire people, inspire the youth and create a very unique environment for Davis,” Gaylen said. “I think it’s more than a restaurant […] We’re looking to be a spot where people can come and enjoy a really high-quality dining experience at a very affordable price, in a very warm, welcoming environment.”

Gaylen said that as a Davis native, it is important to him not to change the structure of the building, and to keep the spot rich with the history from his childhood, and that of other Davis locals.

“We love it the way it is,” Gaylen said. “That’s a historical landmark for Davis […] I spent a night in a jail cell there as a high school kid. That building has history, that town is dear to my heart […] For me, it’s a chance to come home.”

 

Written by: Jalan Tehranifar — features@theaggie.org

 

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