The straight scoop on Saletti’s restaurant |

The straight scoop on Saletti’s restaurant

by Johnnie Salettii
Special to The R-C
Saletti's is set to close in February.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

The restaurant business has changed my life. Watching my parents run not only a place to eat but a place where people feel at home gave me a unique perspective many others my age see as uncommon or unnecessary. Sure, I can seat some people, bus a table, work a register, understand the business aspect behind a successful restaurant — the “front of the house.” What many can’t quite seem to comprehend is the dedication, time consumption, drudgery and physical and mental toll that goes on behind the scenes — the “back of the house.” This is by far, with no discretion, the hardest business to run in the world.

With the endless talk and questions floating around the town of Minden, I thought this would be perfect timing for me to write about it. With my family selling the restaurant and it being turned into a parking lot, here’s the point of view from their very own daughter who was figuratively and literally born into a spaghetti pot.

This restaurant has given my parents and me lifelong friendships — an extended family. Walking into this place is like walking into my second home. There are hellos, hugs, conversations and simple smiles. Knowing everyone by name, feeling a connection to those I rarely even see outside of Saletti’s. The funny stories my mom tells me at the end of the night. Walking in and seeing the giant framed photo of my baby self in a spaghetti pot reading, “There’s a little Italian in everything we make.” The little things. Saletti’s has brought my family, some of the most wonderful people this world has to offer, together into this small ­— yet meaningful — place. Who would have thought it’d have such a big impact on the town of Minden? I don’t necessarily think people view it as just a place to eat either. Sure, it is the best restaurant in town, in a many mile radius (I don’t think I am the only one who can vouch for this), but what it does means so much more. That small town feeling of gathering with your loved ones — family, friends, teammates, coworkers, etc. Laughter. Amusement. Satisfaction. Great food. Service with a smile. I don’t think we realize while we’re just sitting there eating happy hour appetizers with friends, all the memories that come along with it. The cherished friendships, moments and times it has created. It is not just a restaurant, I can tell you that. At the least, it will be missed by many, especially me.

A little back story: my parents met in Lake Tahoe where they began their life together. Making the move to Santa Barbara, Calif. where they were married in 1996. I was born in Santa Maria, California in 1998. To put this into perspective for you, my parents have been married for 21 years and have owned a restaurant together for 20 of those years. Now I know what you’re thinking, when did they get to spend time as a married couple? I was wondering that same thing! Starting their first restaurant in Lompoc, Calif. where I lived for the first eight years of my life, moving locations from the La Botte Building to the Imperial Savings Building. I still have clear memories of myself running around through a large bank that was soon to transform into a restaurant. For seven months, my dad and grandpa — being the general contractors — spent 90 hours a week flipping this place into the beautiful restaurant it was to become. My parents ran Saletti’s in Lompoc for 10 years before making the decision to change things up. Then, we made the big move from Lompoc to Minden due to the fact of the exceptional schooling, the great people, and what better place to raise your kids than good ol’ Minden. In 2007, my parents started Saletti’s again in the Graunke’s Warehouse, a building that has been around since 1919 with more than just historical meaning to the town of Minden. So you ask what was needed when my parents took it over? A family-owned and operated pair of restaurant connoisseurs with hearty, original recipes, a lot of experience with success, and the heart, passion, and endearment it takes to run a triumphant business. This is exactly what they have done.

Over the years, my family has worked so hard putting in the countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears it takes to make their business successful. In fact, 80 percent of restaurants go under in the first five years. My parents have run a restaurant for a combined number of over 50 years — I’m thinking they know what they’re doing at this point. It requires experience, time and people management, accounting skills, customer service, quality food and service, and many more things behind the scenes customers just don’t always realize.

I’ve never seen two people work harder than my mom and dad — they’ve inspired me to do what I love and love what I do, which is what they have shown me first hand. Over the years we’ve missed out on family dinners, nights together, vacations and other luxuries many other families have experienced with something you would classify as a “normal” career. When I was younger, I didn’t quite get it. I would be frustrated and hurt at times — why can’t we do something as simple as have dinner together more than one night a week? I didn’t understand. As I have gotten older, with growing maturity, great guidance, and watching with my own eyes, it has all made sense. My parents, every day, sacrificed these little things to give me a more than amazing upbringing. For 20 years, they have forfeited the things they love to do, for me. They were at that restaurant every night, every day, every weekend, to ensure the success of that restaurant would allow me to me be successful in all that I take on. Whether it be the club volleyball, the prom dress, the new clothes, the school supplies, everything. All they do, they did for me, putting themselves last in such a selfless act. This is nothing I could ever repay them for, no matter how much love I show or things I do — nothing could make up for it. This last year, I’ve gone off on my own to study secondary education at the University of Nevada, Reno, with hopes of returning to Minden and teaching at Douglas High School. I hope to leave a legacy parallel to my former teachers who’ve inspired me in all aspects of life as well as my parents who did so with Saletti’s to this small town. At this point, there is no better timing. It’s time for my parents to finally live their lives, with my support in full swing.

So you ask, “are you sad about the restaurant closing?” Many things have run through my mind answering this question, which I have repeatedly been asked. Sure, it’s bitter-sweet. I mean, I’ve literally grown up in this place. I’ve learned home isn’t necessarily a place, it’s a feeling. I’ve never been alive where a restaurant hasn’t been in my life. It’s done SO much for me and my family, but it has also deprived my parents of living their lives, missing out on many things their friends have been doing over the years. With the restaurant closing, my parents can FINALLY live their lives. The benefits of this place being sold outweigh the negatives in so many ways. My mom can travel, which is something she absolutely adores doing but hasn’t gotten to experience for so many years. I bet you didn’t know my dad is the most talented artist I have EVER laid eyes on. Some of his work looks like photographs — it is absolutely incredible. I can’t tell you the last time he got to draw, but when he talks about it, I can see the joy it brings in his eyes and how much he truly misses it. I guess I’ve learned we often sacrifice some great things in life for the people we love.

So when I answer this question, a smug, small smile comes upon my face. I’ll simply answer, “No, I’m not very sad. In fact, this is just the beginning.”

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who has supported my family over the years. The clientele of Saletti’s is better than any other restaurant I have ever witnessed. We cannot thank you enough. I know many are upset that the building will be torn down. What I like to think is how many restaurants have been inside of it, the very last one being that of my family. When I look at that parking lot, I’ll think of the legacy that was left by my parents. There won’t be another restaurant, new owners or new staff replacing it. I don’t think it could ever be replaced. I know the Saletti family touched the tummies of many families in Minden. But, I hope we touched the hearts of so many more. After all, all must good things must come to an end.

Johnnie Saletti

Just to clarify some ridiculous rumors, my parents aren’t getting a divorce, my dad doesn’t have a 20-year-old new girlfriend, my mom isn’t pregnant, we didn’t lose our home, nor is my dad sick (although, he does drive us a little crazy sometimes). The restaurant was simply sold and my mom is retiring.