After months of severely reduced business or even closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of local Tri-Valley restaurants have come together to encourage residents to support local and participate in the region's first-ever "Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week."
Created by local tourism bureau Visit Tri-Valley, Restaurant Week kicked off last weekend and continues all the way through this Sunday (Feb. 28), offering special menus, deals and promotional events at more than 40 local restaurants and wineries in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Danville.
"Business pointing in the right direction," said Francis Hogan, executive chef and partner of Pleasanton's Sabio on Main. "It's nowhere near the level it was at before but it feels better now than it has in the last 11 months ... Part of the reason we are doing Restaurant Week is to help people get excited about dining out again."
"We're still here, and that's the best thing that we can say you know; it's been catastrophic for the restaurant industry. I don't want to beat that dead horse, but it's just been terrible. I mean this industry has never seen something this bad," he added. "So just the fact that we're still here is something to be happy about and celebrate."
Residents came out in force for the first weekend of Restaurant Week (which actually runs for 10 days), with restaurants throughout the Tri-Valley being visited by patrons seeking to dine out or take meals home
Mill Valley's Cinthia Cantero visited Strizzi's in downtown Livermore with her two siblings and said she was happy to be out in the world again, but couldn't shake how surreal it felt to be among people again.
"I was just telling my sister: We were just dining out and I feel like I'm in a movie, like I'm out of place. It's been so long since we've been out. Right now, it feels different because of the masks but it's really cool to be out again," Cantero said.
Restaurants have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders that called on residents to stay in their homes and scale back time spent at local restaurants and businesses.
While some have been able to pivot to offering curbside pickup and delivery options, many have struggled to remain operational in the face of on-again, off-again outdoor dining and even more sporadic indoor dining allowed under health orders during the past year.
"We pivoted pretty well. We did a lot of to-go business before the pandemic so we understood that model pretty well. I think for us the food holds up really well, and we have a really loyal clientele," said Leigh De La Torre, owner of De La Torre's Trattoria of Pleasanton. "It hasn't been easy. Our sales have been down 50% ... but we've been here for 29 years. We're able to sustain a little more easily than say a new person who is just trying to build up their clientele."
While restaurants have recently been allowed to resume outdoor dining by the state of California and county health officials, for owners like De La Torre, action has not been swift enough and restaurants still need additional support in order to survive.
"I would like to see it move a lot faster. I think getting us open indoors has been a very slow process. I mean, I think we're more sanitized than other places like grocery stores and places like that, with what we do for sanitization. Even 50% (indoor capacity) would make a huge difference for us," De La Torre said.
In all, 43 restaurants are participating in the event, offering deals and specials on take-out, delivery and outdoor dining.
Interested residents can sign up for the free Taste Tri-Valley mobile pass to track where they have visited, access exclusive menu specials and check in at restaurants to win gift cards and prizes from local restaurants. Whoever checks in at the most locations will also win a grand prize for a Tri-Valley weekend getaway.
Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week is created and hosted by the Tri-Valley Business Improvement District -- better known as Visit Tri-Valley -- comprised of the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin and the town of Danville. San Ramon restaurants are not participating because that city has its own tourism district and is not a member of Visit Tri-Valley.
"The first weekend of Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week went deliciously well," said Robin Fahr, director of marketing and communications for Visit Tri-Valley. "We garnered 2,169 signups for the Taste Tri-Valley Pass, the restaurants are remembering their check-in codes and offering great meal deals, and the al fresco dining scene looked as robust as I've ever seen it. We really lucked out with perfect Tri-Valley weather too."
Looking ahead to the final days of the event, Fahr said on Tuesday, "I can't wait for Sabio on Main and De La Torre's later this week, as I've been hearing rave reviews from both. I'm also really excited to get the final numbers of how many signed up for the pass and how many checked in to the participating restaurants, and of course choosing our winners."
"I think we're going to learn that our first annual Taste Tri-Valley was a huge success and just what our restaurants needed during a very difficult time," she added.
To learn more about the Restaurant Week festivities, go to www.visittrivalley.com.
Faz Restaurants & Catering Pleasanton
Strizzi's Restaurant Pleasanton
De La Torre's Trattoria
Eddie Papa's American Hangout
Sabio on Main
SideTrack Bar + Grill
3 Steves Winery
Caraway Indian Cuisine
Las Positas Vineyards
Nella Terra Cellars
Rosa Fierro Cellars
Strizzi's Restaurant Livermore
Wood Family Vineyards
Zephyr Grill & Bar
110 Shabu Shabu
Amici's East Coast Pizzeria Dublin
Bangkok 101 Thai Cuisine
BEREVINO Italian Pub
Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi Too!
Mountain Mike's Pizza
Sourdough & Co.
The Banana Garden
Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
Bridges Restaurant & Bar
Crumbs Breakfast, Lunch & Bar
Danville Brewing Co.
The Vine and Spirits
Thai House Restaurant