Perhaps you’ve been one of those unfortunates to encounter a sad surprise in Old Town Eureka recently. You, suddenly struck with the craving for a some Italian fare, decided to cruise by Mazzotti’s, only to discover a dark and empty space.
On the door, a sign reads “To our loyal customers: Mazzotti’s will be closed for the foreseeable future as we attempt to relocate to a new location.”
It is true. After over 40 years in business, Mazzotti’s has closed its Old Town location.
Owner Joe Mazzotti told the Outpost there are several reasons for the closure, but one of the primary concerns is that the building is just too old. “There was a plethora of issues,” he said. “The idea is to move the restaurant to a more modern location.”
Mazzotti’s has been in the space at the corner of Third and F streets in Eureka since the 1970s, when it was opened by original owners Lenny and Tony Mazzotti. The building was originally owned by Samuel P. Burre and eventually passed down to his granddaughter, current owner Adriana Thompson.
Thompson was a little shocked and disappointed to learn about Mazzotti’s plan to close the restaurant, she told the Outpost — especially that the reason was the building not being up to snuff. Thompson said she has done many upgrades to the building since she’s owned it.
“I do my duty as a landlord,” Thompson told the Outpost, “I’m trying to help the mom and pop businesses.”
But Mazzotti said that even with upgrades, the space is simply not able to accommodate their needs. The lease will be up soon, and he felt that it was time to move on.
Although they had not received official citations from the public health department or building inspector, Mazzotti said the issues with plumbing, gas and electrical were making conditions increasingly difficult for running food service. For example, he said whenever one faucet was turned on, it took the pressure off of another one.
“It’s just not functioning well as a restaurant anymore,” he said.
But issues with the building are not the only reason for Mazzotti’s decision. He acknowledged that business has slowed recently and believes this is largely due to cannabis legalization. He said that the business depended greatly on harvest season for making the greatest profits of the year. When people came in after a good harvest they would go all out, buying tons of food and drinks and paying in cash.
Mazzotti said that other business are feeling the sting of legalization as well, mentioning the closure of Abruzzi Ristorante (Arbuzzi has re-opened as a bar and lounge, called The Basement) and the financial struggles of the North Coast Co-Op.
And although dropping weed prices may be contributing to an economic downturn, Mazzotti also points out that new restaurants have been opening in Eureka and there is more competition than there used to be.
Considering these factors, one might wonder if it’s worth re-opening in a new Eureka location. Mazzotti remains hopeful that another Eureka location could be successful. But he said he’s in no hurry to reopen and wants to wait for the perfect space.
“We want to look at it strategically and be practical about it,” he said. “We do believe that there will be a turnaround. [We’re] seeing a huge influx of medical and legal cannabis.”
In the meantime, Mazzotti wants to concentrate on the Arcata Plaza location, which he says is still thriving. For those saddened by the closure of the Eureka spot, the Mazzotti’s on the Plaza is open seven days a week, ready to satisfy your craving for that famous fresh bread and herbed butter.