Running a Mexican restaurant was in Octavio Cruces’ blood. After all, his family had owned Mexican restaurants throughout Stockton for more than 17 years, and growing up, Octavio had learned the business from the ground up—washing dishes, cooking food, serving customers, and even tending bar.
Guided by those experiences, he founded his own now-thriving business, Casa Flores Marina, which has been lauded by local diners and reporters from The Record alike. Octavio oversees kitchen staffers who fold fresh, homemade ingredients into authentic Mexican dishes as bartenders blend premium silver, reposado, and anejo tequilas into margaritas. Colorful flags and Mexican artwork adorn the dining-room walls, while numerous tabletops speckle the sunny outdoor courtyard. On Wednesdays, the restaurant hosts live performances ranging from local bands to lone mariachis delivering lengthy Shakespearean monologues.
Diners can order dishes as varied as salmon in a teriyaki sauce to steak fajitas to Tuscan turkey burgers topped with a pesto cream sauce. To complement these dishes, guests can order a beer, wine, or cocktail from the extensive drink list. There are drinks that complement every style of dish, with sangria pairing well with the freshly caught fish of the day and mojitios pairing well with spicier food. Breakfast is served all day, and the menu has a wide selection of soups, salads, burgers and more. A full bar offers happy hour from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a late happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to close.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ brings the island to the mainland with tender meats soaked in made-from-scratch marinades. Chefs hand roll chicken katsu in panko bread crumbs to give it a fresh, crispy texture, and assemble generous portions of crispy shrimp, island whitefish, and barbecue chicken in the seafood mix.
For more than 30 years, the chefs of De Vinci’s Elk Grove have been hard at work perfecting the traditional Italian recipes that stock their deli counter. They begin every morning with their hands floury, crafting doughs that will form the base of housemade foccacia breads, cheese-filled ravioli, and custom sandwiches. Joined occasionally by a fluffy ravioli mascot in a toque, staff combine dishes into prearranged packages ready for the family dinner table or parcel out single dishes by the pint, quart, gallon, or 10-gallon hat.
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
When a 13-year-old Isadore Fang began washing dishes at a Sunnyvale restaurant called The Bold Knight, he had no way of knowing he would later own the sink where he performed his humble duties. Eventually, the ambitious restaurateur would own multiple establishments, including The Rendezvous in Fremont and Isadore's, his labor of love since 1989.
There—together with his wife and co-owner Laurel—Fang leads a dedicated staff whose attention to detail earned praises in a 2008 article in the Record. Courteous servers top white-clothed tables with fresh seafood and certified Angus steaks alongside traditional Italian pastas. Semiprivate booths let couples share intimate conversations or the complimentary cheese fondue and warm french bread served with every dinner upon request. Between sips of wine from an extensive list, diners can glance toward the elevated stage where live musicians occasionally play. Alternatively, admire hand-painted murals on the walls, one of which depicts the tranquil, seaside village where Leonardo da Vinci invented the olive-oil mister.
Outside the restaurant, the Fangs' emphasis on serving others carries over to charity work: they have been featured on ABC News10 for helping to send food packages to American troops.