Seasonal, organic fare is something Tony and Rhonda Gruska take very seriously. Between restaurants in Davis and Winters—plus catering and farmers markets—the Gruskas have spent several years setting a true farm-to-fork example. Their restaurants have been co-owned by Jim Eldon of Fiddlers Green Farm in Brooks, and that particular farm supplies the Gruska’s restaurants.
The latest? EastSMF (3260 J Street, suite B), which softly opened last week. That’s the original Formoli’s Bistro place, which the Gruskas have brightened up with fresh paint and modern accents.
Last summer, Tony and Rhonda Gruska were forced to close their Davis restaurant Monticello Seasonal Cuisine amid problems with the landlord. Those problems escalated to a legal battle—and a threat to take Fiddlers Green Farm—that the Gruskas are still fighting. They have a court date in November.
“Right now, our goal is to leave Monticello behind emotionally and financially, and protect the farm,” Rhonda says. She says she’s very excited to be in Sacramento now, joking about her “PTDS: post traumatic Davis syndrome.”
Like Monticello, EastSMF’s menu will change regularly—sometimes, daily. But there will always be one vegan entree and at least one vegetarian entree, along with a poultry, beef and seafood option. Rhonda says they’ll carry over some favorite preparations from Monticello, like their sardines, duck and, most likely, ginger cream scones for brunch. Once EastSMF is in the swing of things—hopefully sometime this spring—they’ll host a grand opening and add on lunch and brunch. As for price point, entrees range from $17-$32 while soup and salad cost $9.
Who is leading the kitchen? Tony, who cooked at Monticello, is joined by Rachel Kelley and Stan Moore. Kelley had an interesting 2015, jumping from Revolution Wines to South to Brasserie Capitale. Moore is best known for his time at Tuli Bistro. There’s no executive chef because, as Rhonda says, EastSMF is “not so into labels.”