Walt Cook, The Union Democrat

A slow economy has not put business plans for a host of Sonora area restaurants on the back burner.

Recent activity includes the debut of a new family-style restaurant near Wal-Mart, continued work on the relocation of a McDonald's on Mono Way, and the approaching opening of a new pizzeria downtown.

The Homeplace

Sonora sisters Jodi Richey and Michelle Keefe, descendants of David and Mary Sanguinetti, renovated a family house into a family-style restaurant on Sanguinetti Road, across from the Sonora Crossroads shopping center parking lot.

The eatery is dubbed "The Homeplace" a moniker the Sanguinetti family has used for the property since the 1880s, when it was part of a 350-acre holding.

The sisters will offer a menu chock full of the family's Montezuma Ranch beef and all-natural ranch-raised and grown products.

"Our beef products have no hormones or antibiotics and our cows are free range, not grain fed," they said.

In addition to the ranch-raised food, ingredients such as fruits

and vegetables will all come from local and Valley farms and dressing

and sauces are all hand-made with local ingredients.

A return to "food innocence" is what Richey and Keefe are banking on in this tough economy.

With an admittedly strong location the sisters believe locals will

naturally be their bread n' butter but hope to lure in tourist looking

for real country food.

"When we go out we have such a hard time finding fresh food. It is

important to us and a lot of people that we go back to the old ways

instead of getting everything out of a box," said Keefe.

The Homeplace employs 15 local residents.


At the corner of Sanguinetti Road and Mono Way, at the Sanguinetti

Loop, land grading for a new 3,900-square-foot McDonald's is nearly


"The grading permit was issued and we have written a letter to

McDonald's notifying them. The ball is really in McDonald's court right

now," explained Sonora City Administrator Greg Applegate.

Speculation around town is that the McDonald's location at The

Junction shopping center could become an In-N-Out Burger or an Arby's.

"I think there's a lot of wishful thinking going on here. We don't

know what McDonald's is planning on doing at this time. But what I do

know is that In N' Out is definitely not coming here," said Applegate.

McDonald's could not be reached before press time.

Artisan Pizza

In downtown Sonora, at Stewart and Linoberg streets, a specialty

pizza, cafe and souvenir gift shop is scheduled to open this weekend.

Artisan Pizza & Cafe owners Vic and Judith Vaitys hope to be a

one-stop shop for downtown tourist and locals looking for the one-two

punch of quality pizza and gourmet coffee.

The Vaityses are banking on their strong location and industry

experience. For the past decade, they have owned and operated the

Strawberry Inn at Pinecrest Lake.

The couple owns the building in which their new business venture is located, the Old Town Sonora Building.

The pizzeria is located at the site occupied by Banny's Cafe and Wine Bar, which relocated to Mountain Springs Golf Course.

Judith Vaitys said the establishment will employ about 10 to 12 local residents.