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Farm Fresh

Carolyn Jung | September 2, 2016 | Story Restaurants National

When longtime Peninsula restaurateur and caterer Maurice Carrubba first heard about an old restaurant for sale atop Santa Clara County’s Mount Hamilton, reachable only by a serpentine road built with more curves than a Kardashian, it took his breath away—in more ways than one. “I’m scared of heights, but I took a risk and drove up here,” he says, recounting how he clutched his steering wheel like there was no tomorrow to reach this spot 1,500 feet above the valley. “I just fell in love with the place. There is no place like this with this view.”

Indeed, few places possess such a bird’s-eye panorama of the entire valley, including Lake Cunningham and the San Francisco Bay, aglow in the evenings with glittering city lights as far as one can see. Fewer still boast what Carrubba is creating. After purchasing that circa-1884 mountaintop restaurant known as the GrandView in 2014, which had been owned by the Ciciarelli family for more than 50 years, he spent six months remodeling it. The result is an Italian steakhouse with an air of old Hollywood glamour replete with framed Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin photos in the bar, and sharp-vested, bow-tied waiters in the 120-seat dining room and on the 70-seat patio.

He followed that up last year with the purchase of the 50-acre cattle farm across the road. After clearing rocks and mile-high weeds, he set about creating an organic, solar-powered farm that will eventually supply the majority of ingredients for the GrandView, as well as his other establishments, including the San Benito Ale House in Half Moon Bay, Osteria in Palo Alto and seven Cafe Vie venues at Stanford Hospital and its clinics. Even bolder plans are in the works: Carrubba’s ultimate goal is to turn the property into a bona fide community gathering spot, complete with its own farmers market, pumpkin patch, homegrown Christmas tree lot, seasonal farm dinners, school group tours and pony rides.

“To be able to grow our own beef and vegetables, and to be able to make our own cheese—in Silicon Valley—I get joy in sharing it all with people who miss this area being farms and orchards,” says Carrubba, who grew up in Sicily with an extended family that farmed and operated restaurants. This summer, the farm celebrated its first harvest. The native soil, irrigated by its own artesian well, has been planted with an abundance of more than 100 apricot, peach, apple, pear, fig and citrus trees, as well as Spanish olive ones for garnishing the GrandView martinis. Amid scarecrows adorned with baseball caps and straw hats sit rows of tomatoes, peppers, kale, raspberries, blackberries, Italian occhio nerore green beans and blueberry grapes that taste of blueberry pie. Everything is grown from non-GMO heirloom seeds. “People just say how heartwarming it is to see all of this when they visit,” says Danielle Suarez; she and her husband, Nabor, are the farmers who manage GrandView Farms. There are also 30 goats, whose milk will be used for making cheese; and 30 laying hens, whose eggs are featured on the farm menu in deviled eggs made fanciful with saffron aioli, crisp prosciutto and truffle oil.

Each night, Executive Chef Miguel Velasquez oversees the expansive main menu, which includes sides that incorporate the farm’s produce, while Chef de Cuisine Max Beaudreau, who works the farm, creates the more concise farm menu that’s also offered. Those specials are designed to make the most of the farm’s wealth, such as just-picked donut peaches stuffed with burrata and crispy prosciutto di Parma ($14), and housemade spaghetti lobster carbonara enlivened with the farm’s sugar snap peas ($32). The bar program has already gotten into the act too, serving a popular Lavender Collins ($12) muddled with two types of lavender grown here. What Carrubba is most excited to see on the farm menu, though, is the Mount Hamilton rib-eye ($49) and slow-braised beef cheeks ($28), both from the farm’s grass-fed herd of Angus.

A lot of regulars who have come back to check out the place do double-takes when they see how it’s been rejuvenated, including Carrubba’s wife and in-laws, who coincidentally all had their proms here way back when. Long a popular place for date night, the restaurant has had 100 proposals since Carrubba took it over, including couples who have gone on to hold their weddings here. With no investors, Carrubba sank “a few million” into the restaurant and farm, which he owns with his older brother, Giuseppe, who operates Osteria. Yet Carrubba calls it his best investment yet. “I’m broke, but I’m happy,” he says with a smile. “And I like heights now.”

15005 Mount Hamilton Road, San Jose, 408.251.8909
Dinner: Wed.–Sun., 5 p.m.–10 p.m.; bar, Wed.–Sun., 3 p.m.–10 p.m.
Appetizers: $12.50–$149.50; salads: $10.50–$12.50.
Pastas: $21.50–$35.50; entrees: $21.50–$49.50; sides: $7; desserts: $10.

Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley

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