Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 11:25 am | Fair 57º




Cito Street Café May Be New Concept, But Family Name Behind It Is a Familiar One

Daughter of Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant owners plans coffee shop for same West Montecito Street plaza as the original Rudy's location

Members of the same Santa Barbara family who established Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant nearly 40 years ago will soon open Cito Street Café at West Montecito and Bath streets. Andrea and Neal Steward, in back, are spearheading the effort, supported by Andrea’s parents, Alma and Rudy Alvaro.
Members of the same Santa Barbara family who established Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant nearly 40 years ago will soon open Cito Street Café at West Montecito and Bath streets. Andrea and Neal Steward, in back, are spearheading the effort, supported by Andrea’s parents, Alma and Rudy Alvaro.                      (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The corner of Montecito and Bath streets means something to Santa Barbara’s Alvaro family.

It’s where patriarch Rudy opened his first namesake restaurant in 1976 with just a handful of his mother’s recipes, reminiscent of their Mexican heritage.

Back then, Rudy’s daughter, Andrea, would’ve been bobbing around in a playpen somewhere inside Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant at 305 W. Montecito St. while her mother, Alma, worked as cashier and her father cooked.

The family fondly recalled the image on a recent afternoon outside the eatery, now one of six under the Rudy’s umbrella.

Her parents followed their dream, and Andrea will soon follow suit.

She and husband Neal Steward plan to open Cito Street Café right next door to the original Rudy’s, in a complex the family has owned for decades. Their coffee shop will replace a discount store that left the space after many years in January.

Plans call for a November opening, with renovations inside and out, more parking, better lighting and a brand-new sign naming the complex Montecito Plaza.

“Definitely there’s a lack of coffee,” Andrea Steward told Noozhawk, referring to the many guests who stay at hotels in the nearby West Beach-area neighborhood.

“It was a great opportunity. I wanted to work with my family.”

Cito Street Café is supposed to compliment Rudy’s, which has other locations on Upper State Street and in Buellton, Carpinteria and Camarillo — most managed by one of three children or six grandchildren. Alvaro’s son recently renamed a sixth location in Goleta the Paloma Restaurant after his own daughter.

Andrea worked in the restaurants growing up, choosing to go away for fashion school in Los Angeles before returning to her roots.

She was spending most of her time in Camarillo when the Cito Street Café idea took off, with visions of simple yet quality coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, pastries and healthier food options dancing in her head.

The Stewards hope to refresh the exterior by revealing its original red brick and by putting in an outdoor patio facing Montecito Street, where customers could enjoy beer and wine once proper approval is granted.

A grab-and-go menu of sandwiches, salads and bone broths is being developed by celebrity chef Ariane Resnick, who the family met through Jeremiah Higgins, founding member of HJL Group Restaurant Advisers.

Resnick, who will train Cito Street staff, has also served as chef to Gwyneth Paltrow.

All food will be pre-made and packaged the same day inside Rudy’s, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.

The latest Alvaro venture will undoubtedly involve the whole family.

Rudy Alvaro remarked how strange it felt to be the veteran restaurateur. He feels like he was working his first job only yesterday — as a 14-year-old clearing tables and washing dishes at Montecito Country Club.

“If you do a good job, you can do well,” he said.

“It’s a great business only if you like it. You need to love what you do. I love it.”

He enthusiastically agreed his daughter has the same drive.

“Oh yeah,” Rudy said. “It will be a new adventure.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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