Photo of Annesso Pizzeria via their website.

published on December 27, 2021 - 11:14 AM
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While the first impression of many coming out of the pandemic might be to think that the restaurant industry in 2021 was one of recovery, it was also one of expansion, new beginnings and reopenings. Here are some of the highlights for restaurants and their fans this year.


Annesso Pizzeria

The family name behind one of Fresno’s most popular fine-dining restaurants and perhaps its largest catering company opened a pizzeria in north Fresno. Restaurateur Jimmy Pardini opened Annesso Pizzeria in July as a sister restaurant of the Annex Kitchen in west Fresno. In a previous interview, Pardini described the pizza as “Italian meets New York” with simple ingredients.


Brooks Burgers

Just up the way from Annesso Pizzeria in River Park Shopping Center, Brooks Burgers opened, replacing The Hangar that opened in 2019. One of the owners of Hangar Burger, Arman Asatrian partnered with iconic restaurateur Luke Brooks and his father Randy Brooks to open the second location for the burger joint, the first being in Pismo Beach. The Brooks name was attached to other restaurant chains such as Jeb’s Blueberry Hill, Country Waffles, Brooks Ranch and Perko’s. The goal of Brooks Burgers was to provide quality affordable burgers and sandwiches.


Macaroni Grill

The Italian restaurant chain’s River Park location was demolished in April. The space still lies vacant with a “for lease” sign posted.


Raising Cane’s

The Louisiana-based chicken chain Raising Cane’s spread its wings in the Central Valley with a flock of new restaurants. After Logan’s Roadhouse near River Park Shopping Center was torn down in July, it was announced that the Louisiana-based chicken chain Raising Cane’s would replace it. Construction is well underway on the building. In Clovis, the Pier 1 at Shaw and Cole avenues was torn down so Raising Cane’s could fill that spot. The restaurant also opened in Hanford in July.


The Painted Table 

The catering business that occupied space in Tower Theatre for more than a decade moved to the former Tornino’s location in January, expanding its catering services to event hosting as well. Established in 1981, the owners of Tornino’s hosted some of the most prominent events in the Central Valley.


Joe’s Steakhouse

After 15 years as a dinner staple in Downtown Fresno, the Anaya family decided to call it quits on Joe’s Steakhouse in April. By OCtober, the business was listed for sale with Stumpf and Co. brokering the sale of a lease for the location and its fixtures and appliances to any prospective buyers. 


Sunnyside Delicatessen

A similar story to that of Joe’s Steakhouse occurred for a nearly 40-year deli in southeast Fresno. It was in April that Margaret Riley announced she would retire and close Sunnyside Delicatessen after being in business for 38 years. By July, a buyer was found and the Husak family, long-time family friends of Margaret Riley, would purchase the business, the sale also brokered by Stumpf and Co. The sandwich spot is now open,


Zack’s Brewing/Full Circle Brewing Co.

After two years in business, Zack’s Brewing Co. closed its Downtown Fresno location in February. By May, the owners of Full Circle Brewing Co. held the grand opening of their new tasting room in the same location across from Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co. In addition to hosting regular music events, the outdoor patio space hosts regular food vendors and games.


Quail State/Saint Joaquin

The craft cocktail and fine-dining restaurant Quail State made its final move to the rooftop of Downtown Fresno’s Pacific Southwest Building in April. Patrons of Quail State had been eating in the restaurant’s outdoor location along Mariposa Street. It wasn’t too much longer when Quail State co-owners Hayley and Josh Islas Wolf opened Saint Joaquin, also in Downtown Fresno in the Peerless Building. The wine bar serves natural wines and hosts events such as trivia nights.


Shep’s Club

The Fresno legacy restaurant Shepherd’s Inn rebranded as Shep’s Club in 2020 and caught the attention of national television show Undercover Billionaire. The former restaurant that featured seven-course meals turned into a deli and farmer’s market. Real estate developer Elaine Culotti advised operator Chris Cailier to expand into a deli, coffee shop, speakeasy bar and inn.


El Cochinito Contento

The owner of one of Tower District’s best kept secrets was recognized by El Restaurante Magazine and awarded second place in their Independent Mexican Restaurant Owner of the Year awards. Martha Ortega was recognized for her skill in the kitchen, treatment of employees and community engagement as reasons for winning.

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