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Former Café Citti building preparing for face-lift

Ravaged restaurant receiving renovations
Former Café Citti building preparing for face-lift
The former Café Citti location is moving to the next phase of its long-awaited facelift.Photo by Paul Goguen

 

By Chris Rooney

One of Kenwood’s favorite gems is about to regain its luster.

The building that once housed the Café Citti restaurant on Sonoma Highway is on the verge of long-awaited renovations, reported Henry Belmonte, whose family has owned the location for decades.

Belmonte said his family is “working diligently” to get a final sign-off from Sonoma County officials, and that the family is “anxious to move forward.”

A building permit was imminent and Belmonte said it could happen before this edition of the Kenwood Press hits the stands.

The building, which drew the attention of TV chef/personality Guy Fieri while Café Citti was in operation, has fallen on hard times since the 2017 wildfires. Pandemic complications convinced the restaurant operators to relocate to a primarily take-out spot in Santa Rosa, leaving the Belmontes seeking new tenants.

First, however, a long list of repairs and code issues needed to be addressed. Belmonte said he’s been working with county officials to get approval to “get in there and sort of clean it up.”

The building’s future isn’t certain, but Belmonte predicted a new restaurant based on the interest he’s received from potential tenants.

“It worked so well as a restaurant,” Belmonte said. “It was always a landmark.”

One thing that seems certain is that the renovated building won’t likely lure the Belmonte family back into the local restaurant scene. Belmonte said people have asked about a return to the restaurant business, but the family is focused elsewhere.

One of a handful of local families who owned and ran popular restaurants in Sonoma County, the Belmontes eased into semi-retirement after closing Piazza Uno and selling Caffe Portofino in downtown Santa Rosa. Portofino was a particular success, routinely placed among the top restaurants in the “Best of…” lists in local publications. The fickle industry has changed since its prolonged popularity, as downtown Santa Rosa has become a revolving door of promising restaurants that can’t overcome COVID-19-related and economic factors.

Belmonte credited Sonoma County First District Supervisor Susan Gorin for helping move the permit process along.

“I encouraged Henry Belmonte and the county to work collaboratively on the permitting necessary to move this renovation forward as expeditiously as possible,” Gorin said. “And hopefully that is happening now. I hope to see a renovated building at this site as quickly as possible, and I will continue to prod this process forward.”

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