Since she first stepped into the Mount Hamilton Grandview Restaurant as a waitress in 1971, Lucie Ciciarelli has been on the go -- cooking, baking, managing, even fixing drinks. But after dinner service at the San Jose restaurant finishes on Mother's Day, she'll finally get to take her apron off and put her feet up.
I doubt she'll relax for long -- even at 80, she's got too much spunk for retirement. But it will mark the end of an era at the quirky roadhouse restaurant that has delighted diners with its "surf and turf" menu for decades. Ciciarelli has been a constant presence at the Grandview since her husband, Nino Ciciarelli, passed away in 1993.
"She does it all," Barbara Fairhurst said. "She'll cook, she'll come out and make your drink if you need one." A longtime patron, Fairhurst was at the Grandview on Thursday night for the annual dinner of the Three Springs Ranch Homeowners Association.
"I used to come in here on a Friday or Saturday night in the late Sixties and the place was just packed," she said.
And it's difficult to say what customers leave remembering most: The west-facing view of the Santa Clara Valley from the restaurant's perch on twisty Mount Hamilton Road is exquisite. You can see clear to the bay, and after the sun sets the twinkling lights of the city below look magical. But then there's Lucie's amazing cheesecake, the Grandview's signature dessert. It's a must-have, even after polishing off a steak dinner accompanied by vegetables, a baked potato, rolls, soup and salad.
The restaurant is expected to be closed for a couple of months while the new ownership group does a little renovation. It probably means the end of the black-velvet paintings in the bar and maybe even the so-old-school-it's-cool wood paneling. I heard that the hitching rail -- used by one couple who rode their horses there Thursday night -- might be history, too.
Ciciarelli, who grew up in the south of France, doesn't seem to want anyone making a fuss over her departure. "Americans have a saying, 'Everything comes to an end,' " she said.
We've got another one, too: "Thanks for the memories."
PRESIDENTIAL VINTAGE: There is no shortage of fantastic wines to choose in Northern California, so Gene Guglielmo was honored when George Patten, from the Fairmont San Jose, contacted him about serving Guglielmo wine exclusively at Thursday night's Democratic National Committee fundraiser with President Barack Obama at the hotel.
"It was a great call to get," said Guglielmo, director of sales and co-owner with brothers George and Gary of the Morgan Hill-based family winery. "This is the result of a very successful long-term relationship with the Fairmont and a recognition of the quality of our locally grown and produced wines."
The Fairmont served Obama and guests the Guglielmo 2012 Private Reserve Pinot Grigio and the 2010 Private Reserve Pinot Noir. Several of the winery's TRE label wines were offered as well. And being smart businesspeople, the winery's Morgan Hill tasting room will be offering a "Presidential Special" on the pinot grigio and pinot noir through the end of the month.
AT YOUR (SECRET) SERVICE: Speaking of the Fairmont, Marshall Jones had a festive send-off Wednesday night to mark his departure as the hotel's director of sales and marketing after more than 10 years. In addition to the funny videos, heartfelt gifts and warm farewells you'd expect, Jones was presented with a most unusual commendation: A certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Secret Service, signed by director Julia Pierson, for all his help during visits by the president and other government officials.
Jones isn't going too far, as he just started his new job as director of sales and marketing at Berkeley's Claremont Hotel, which was recently purchased by the Fairmont group.
COURAGEOUS DAY: It should be an amazing Mother's Day for the 600 kids and their families who will be at California's Great America in Santa Clara for the 25th anniversary of the American Cancer Society's Courageous Kids Day. And it really couldn't be done without the 200 volunteers who are helping to make sure those kids who have been battling cancer have the time of their lives at the amusement park, which is providing free admission and lunch to all of them.
Sheri Sobrato Brisson, a brain tumor survivor and a trustee of Sobrato Philanthropies, will be out there, too, to distribute copies of her book, "Digging Deep," which is aimed at helping families understand and communicate about the challenges of having or being a seriously ill child. The book has its formal launch Wednesday afternoon at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood City.
DOME UPDATE: As expected, San Jose's Historic Landmarks Commission recommended Wednesday that the City Council designate the Century 21 dome on Winchester Boulevard as a city landmark. The council was expected to take up the issue at its May 20 meeting, but it's been taken off that agenda and no other date has yet been set for a hearing.
Federal Realty, owner of Santana Row and the company that now has the lease on the Century 21 property, took what I thought to be a strange stand of discouraging the landmark designation because, in part, there's not yet a plan on the table that would lead to the theater's destruction. It seems to me, and also to the historic landmarks commission, that waiting until such a plan has been put in motion would be trying to close the barn door after the wrecking ball has already demolished it.
MEMORIAL: In case you missed it, there's a memorial tribute planned for philanthropist and community leader Carl Cookson at 5 p.m. Monday at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose. Cookson, who was CEO of Santa Clara Land Title and a true friend to many of the valley's nonprofits, passed away April 29 at age 81, following a fight with leukemia.