Fort Bragg – Come for the fun, stay for the food
Walking into Piaci Pub & Pizzeria in downtown Fort Bragg is like walking into Boston's fictitious Cheers Pub; where everybody knows your name. "Or at least where you work," says co-owner Cynthia Ariosta with a smile. Ariosta and Business Partner Stephen Duerr took over this local hang out, known for its superior thin crust pizza, from original owner Jim Muto in 2003, and its been hopping ever since.
"This is Italian style pizza," notes Ariosta as she multi-tasks, serving sandwiches and salads to regulars, pouring micro-brewed beer from the tap and offering pizza suggestions to out-of-towners such as myself. "We make our own sausage in house. We buy our pork from Roundman's Smokehouse up the street and we utilize local produce." Case in point, today's caprese salad is made with Sky Hoyt Farm's tomatoes from Lake County. Piaci Chef Gregorio Garcia picked up the tomatoes and basil from the Wednesday Fort Bragg Farmer's Market.
"We have a great staff and are strong believers in the economic gardening philosophy," notes Ariosta. That is, they embrace strategies to grow existing businesses in their community. This philosophy seems to be paying off in the formerly blue collar town of Fort Bragg.
Like the product? Why not buy the company?
Mendocino Chocolate Company Owner Julie Keaton had purchased chocolates for their Seabird Lodge hotel guests for years. When they heard the business was for sale in 2003, she and her husband jumped in with both feet, or perhaps hands is a better word. Afterall, the candies are decorated and made by hand. The coffee toffee with hazelnuts is unique, as is the 6 Angels Mocha Truffle, six being the number of children in Keaton's household.
For something homemade and unique to Fort Bragg, visit Cowlicks Handmade Ice Cream located on Main Street. Locals rave about the seasonal mushroom ice cream that tastes like maple nut. Across the street, Piaci offers Cowlicks Spumoni flavored ice cream.
Mendocino Cookie Company
"Do you want to know something funny?" asks Mendocino Cookie Company Manager and Owner Wendy Alarcon. "My mother never baked us cookies when we were growing up!" laughs Alarcon. Previously located in Mendocino for fourteen years, the company moved to Fort Bragg because they needed more elbow room and they viewed the community as up-and-coming.
In selecting a few cookies from the fifteen different varieties, Alarcon suggested the Backpacker cookie, sort of a granola cookie with oats, raisins, chocolate and butterscotch chips, along with the Chocolate Bliss, a chocolate shortbread cookie with chocolate chips. Mighty taste cookies.