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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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I Still Call It Rossotti’s

Uploaded: Aug 8, 2014

It's a Wednesday evening at 5pm and where to go in Portola Valley / Woodside for a happy hour drink in the sun? There are only two places, the first being the Alpine Inn on Alpine Road and Arastradero. Where's the second? Extra-extra points if you can name the third place (recently closed).

Have you been to the Alpine Inn? I still call it Rossotti's, though it's been called all kinds of things over its 162- year lifespan. Read the whole history in a 2002 Mercury News article that hangs on the wall in the bar/restaurant. No matter what name you use however, the history rings rich and raunchy.



The trouble started in 1852 when the bar opened. I like trouble. In 1908, it got so bad that the president of Stanford wrote to the San Mateo County Supervisors. "The Wunder" (it's name at the time), "is vile and a disgrace to San Mateo County." In 1909, a California law passed prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 1.5 miles of Stanford (not lifted till 1970). Just beyond that reach, Wunder lived on again, unscathed. During Prohibition (1920 - 1933) Wunder went underground, just like my great-grandparents bar-turned-Blind Pig in Detroit. Then owner Charles Schenkel changed the name to Schenkel's Picnic Park, advertizing non-alcoholic drinks and family fun on the sunny backyard patio, but it's rumored that those in the know had other libations coming out a side door. After Prohibition, Enrico Rossotti took over the lease and the name, until 1948 when it was renamed Alpine Inn. To this day however, many patrons fondly refer to the historic watering hole (dubbed a 1969 California State Landmark) as Zotts (short for Rossotti's). How has this stuck for so long?

Zotts' backyard is filled with picnic tables, hippy beer flags, and "the most eclectic customers you'll ever meet." This particular Wednesday is no different. Son of Hemmingway reads passionately to my left, while to my right, J.D. Rockefeller talks loudly on cell about his "big pipe lines." There's a lady in a moo moo across from me, and Fit in Flip Flops keeps walking back inside for another beer. You must come visit. It's the perfect place to write your memoire, or find inspiration for your upcoming nonfiction release. Character study is endless at Zotts.

The menu….well…. nowhere near as exciting or diverse as the people. You got the burger ($5.50) fries ($2.75 ) veggie burger ($5.50) side grilled onions (.35) and hard boiled egg (.50) thing goin'. Also Polish, LA Hot, and Portuguese sausages ($5.25) (anyone know the difference?) I love classic roadhouse fare, but would jump at the chance to updo the menu…just a touch.

So until the current owners call me maybe, here's a Food Partier's take on the tuna sandwich ($5.00)

Too eco-crunchy for Zotts?

Nah – call it eclectic.


Eclectic Tuna
1 can dolphin-safe tuna
4 ounces smoked sardines or anchovies (bump up those omega 3 fatty acids)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, grated
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup dark leafy green, chopped (spinach, kale)
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon capers or pickled peppercorns
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably made from olive or canola oil)
Worcestershire sauce, smoked salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mash the sardines or anchovies. Mix with all the other ingredients. Put between 2 slices of Portola Valley Bread and serve with lettuce, homegrown tomato (the patio is perfect for this) and a homemade pickle.



A selection of free reading material on an outdoor table



Note to Vinod Khosla, AKA Martin's Beach Meanie: I hear you own the property across the riverbank from Zotts and are thinking of doing some "things" back there too. Do no harm Khosla!



Comments

Posted by Kathies, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 8:39 am

Wonderful blog, delivering up the info with style! Was the "third place," now closed, Jan\'s Valley Inn?t


Posted by Once a PV kid, a resident of another community,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

Peanut Farm! Wasn't there a Nuts to Zotts run or ride back then? Even today when I pass it (now a house), I wonder if/how they rid the building of the stench of beer and smoke.

Btw, it's Rossotti's.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Kathies, don't know Jan's Valley Inn - but I have only been living in the area since the mid 90's. So I know of Peanut Farm - but never went Once a PV kid. And OMG - thanks for that typo. I swear I checked that so many times! We still await the second (still open) and third (recently closed) happy hour-in-the-sun places.


Posted by John, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

Amigo's Grill and the pool bar at the Madera Restaurant/Rosewood Hotel both have full bars & drinks on the patio. But they are both still open to my knowledge.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:51 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

John, I do not think Amigo's Grill has sun during happy hour. Am I wrong on that? The Rosewood is in Menlo Park - but yes, that should get a close honorable mention for sure.


Posted by John, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:13 am

Laura,
Yes, Amigo's has sun in the afternoon, as long as you don't hide under the umbrellas. Not the same experience as Zotts, but it's not bad. I will grant you that Rosewood is just over the border. If you're using legal boundaries as the limits then I'll add Alice's, as it believe it is just barely part of Woodside.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

John - another solar powered drinker I see! I have enjoyed Alice's afternoon sunny back bar - add that one to the extended trip list. And time for an Amigo's research trip para mi. Look for the single gal with pen and paper in hand.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Palo Alto Hills,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Yes, Zotts! My boyfriend, at the time, and I used to go out there and get a little buzzed...then [portion removed] I hope that freedom never ends out there.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Well, a,....Kathy, I see the rich and raunchy history lives on! Sorry for the [ by the way - but a few folks felt better with the comment this way. And am I the only one, or is Eclectic Tuna not a great name for a band?


Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Raunchy, yes. I remember a stag party with raunchy movies in the back room when the sudden cry, "The cops are here!!" Out the back door we all went. Very innocent by today's standards but Rossitti's was the only place to do it.


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

It is Rossotti's to my parents (Stanford 1950s) and Zotts to me (Stanford 1980s)


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

oooo everyone, do share your stories from Rossotti's!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm

It'll always be Zott's.


Posted by Mark Toshland, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 8:17 am

When I think of Zott's, I also think of The Little Store (3340 Wooodside Road) for burgers, fries, etc. in a super casual setting. I think The Little Store used to be run by a woman and her daughters. Do I have that right? People used to tie their horses up in front while they ate (back when I was a student at the Menlo School for Boys - as we called in then!)


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 8:45 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Wow Mark Toshland - the Little Store is still open? I just googled to find out. Think so - but I had no idea. I haven't eaten there in years.


Posted by Bob Matheson, a resident of another community,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:29 am

Somewhere there's a 35mm slide in my box of Kodak Processing mailings with a picture of my A COORS license plate above their cash register.
Rosot's was also the first time in my life I saw that incredible new video technology breakthrough, PONG, being played in low-res monochrome!!
Ah, those were the days!! And a few daze, too.


Posted by The Shadow knows...., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm

My favorite is the chicken sandwich. It's sliced thin and then grilled to a well done crispy around the edges finish. Goes great with a cold draft beer.

I think the place is still run by the mother/daughter combo. Mom at the register and daughter behind the bar, although last time I was in I didn't see mom.

I LOVE dives with character like this!!!!


Posted by Allen, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I was 17 and in the Navy. coming back from camping on the coast. Stopped in for my first time for a burger an a drink. The bartender ask me what I would like? Joking with him I said: a bud and a hamburger and before I know it, I had a bud in front of me.

This is how I bought my first beer in a bar. I have been going back every since.


Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Many, many years ago when I worked at Ampex, we used to go to Rossati's for lunch from time to time and have great difficulty ever getting back to work. We would end up a bit buzzed from two draft beers and sort of stunned from sitting outside in the sun. Great place.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Great job, Laura.
Zots.
Tim Harris and I met up there recently; I drove although it is biking distance from my apartment, Oak Creek. When I got there I greeted a dude who had obviously come a distance on his bike. It turns out he is Paul De Barros, Cubberley Class of 1963, looking to shoot a photo in the spot his band gigged there that year, i.e. 50 years ago. He is actually a known music writer, mostly jazz, in Seattle. Was visiting his parents.

Also, re Khosla, I am pretty sure I recall precisely that twenty or so years ago, the Mercury, then a Knight Ridder paper and much better than today's, ran a list of water scofflaws and he was head of the list, for a Palo Alto or Palo Alto Hills property, or LAH, maybe the one you are describing. (He famous as VC and founder of tech company and recently for privatizing a beach access). Water scofflaw meaning he ran up a huge bill even when we were supposed to be rationing.

Here is link to picture of Paul:

Web Link

I have to say the food was iffy. I would rather eat yours, from what I hear. And no I cannot follow a recipe but thanks for suggesting.

Mark Weiss
BAA, 1993ish


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 2:47 am

I always wonder what is it about Palo Altans that they so love to go to this dive place for a little "danger", hang around where the bikers are and think they are living dangerously or something ... the place is a dump, with a low-life dump mystique that I guess I've never quite understood.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 7:30 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

CrescentParkAnon? I expect more from you than that. Rossotti's may be falling apart, but so is the Colosseum. The back yard is an inspirational sunny writing spot and the beer is crisp and cold. Besides, maybe I AM one of those low-life bikers? Google Laura Stec + leather.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I was at The Little Store recently, and it was run by a French woman. I think she's been there awhile, but I didn't pay attention before who our server was.


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

pearl is a registered user.

I was born and raised in West Menlo Park -- before there was a Highway 280 or a Sharon Heights. The Rossotti sisters, Margaret and Theresa, were both in our Girl Scout troop. Mr. and Mrs. Rossotti used to let us have our overnight outdoor camp-outs there on their property. Great fun! ; )

We also used to go swimming at nearby Searsville Lake, when it was still open to the public. Nice beach, safe place for families to visit. Those were the good, old days, that's for sure!!!


Posted by Don Nelson, a resident of Stierlin Estates,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Zott's changed from Rossotti's to the Alpine in 1958. Don Horther and John Alexander purchased it and Mr. Rossotti (he did not own it at that time) indicated he did not want his name used on the joint, so they came up with the Alpine name. Don and John passed away several years ago. John's widow (Molly) now owns it, but no longer can be there for health reasons. She is around 90 years old. A relative of hers now operates it. One of her daughters worked there until recently. My first time there was in 1954 when I was a Stanford freshman. The owner (Ed something) commented that I was a freshman and handed me a quart (the quart is still the standard unit of measure there) of Oly. I was 18 at the time. In 1980 I was crowned "The King of Vulgaria". Our group of regulars declared the grounds as the Kingdom of Vulgaria and I was made the King. I still host a royal event there now and then. The other joints in The Valley were Mama Garcia's, Rudy's, Art'l Fashionable Portola Club, and Jan's Valley Inn. The Parkside Bar and Grill is the only other one. None of the others mentioned count. Not in the Valley. The "world famed" Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band gathers there (it started in "The Woods" in 1960) frequently.


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

I think we should have a Rossotti's Mass Mob on Friday Aug 22. Happy Hour 5-7pm. Who's in? Save Rossotti's!


Posted by fan of zots, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 8:40 pm

"Zots" means "fool" in Dutch. A coincidence? I think not.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of another community,
on Aug 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm

This is such a fun post, Laura. Looks like we all have some fond Zots memories. Mine go back to the sixties, when I lived just up above Zot's on Bear Gulch Drive (in PV). On Saturday afternoons we would hear the thunder of the Hell's Angels as they swung through the Alpine Inn for a beer or two on their way up to Keasey's place up on Skyline.

Oh, and Vinod? Laura and I will see you on the beach. :-)


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 5:47 am

Many high school reunion weekends have a kick-off gathering at Zot's on Friday evening (then a more formal dinner somewhere on Saturday, followed by a family-friendly picnic at some park on Sunday). I've run across various years of Gunn, Paly, M-A, and Los Altos High reunions up there. Can't think of a more economical option with sufficient parking and elbow room.


Posted by JimmyJoe, a resident of another community,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I once was at Zott's with a few fellows and a bag of gummy bears. A male Dr. came in with five women Dr.s and one of our guys knew the male. They walked by and I said "Trade you some gummy bears for some of your women." And after they were seated the male Dr. came over and said that the women wanted to be he would not let them, the sexist pig.


Posted by Been There, Saw That, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Aug 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm

"Yes, Zotts! My boyfriend, at the time, and I used to go out there and get a little buzzed...then [portion removed] I hope that freedom never ends out there."

I remember well, very well. It was quite a show. Thanks.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Laura Stec ...
> CrescentParkAnon? I expect more from you than that.

Well, sorry.

> Rossotti's may be falling apart, but so is the Colosseum.

If you are comparing Rossoti's to the Coliseum maybe you
should cut back on the beers! ;-)

> The back yard is an inspirational sunny writing spot and
> the beer is crisp and cold.

OK, I'll give you that, the back yard is -- not terrible.

> Besides, maybe I AM one of those low-life bikers?
> Google Laura Stec + leather.

I am sure your low-life friends appreciate the solidarity,
but you ... low-file ... surely, not ... Goggle came up with
zip?


Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Did they take down that picture of me in the chaps?


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