A Return Engagement for La Forêt

Carolyn Jung | January 17, 2018 | Story Restaurants

History has a savior in the Carrubba brothers. The two restaurateurs have a knack for honing in on venerable establishments to give them new life. They did so with the 30-year-old Osteria in Palo Alto, taking it over four years ago, before following that up in 2014 with the purchase of the circa-1884 Grandview in San Jose. Their newest endeavor shows just how kismet has been on their side.

Until recently, Maurice Carrubba had never heard of La Forêt, the French-continental restaurant in San Jose’s Almaden Valley. Surrounded by lush trees, it was the first two-story hotel in California. Dating back to 1848, the building once housed workers from the nearby quicksilver mines—the first mining operation established in the state. For 38 years, chef-proprietor John Davoudi built the restaurant into a labor of love. It was the destination for birthday, anniversary and holiday celebrations. Three generations dined as often as three times a month on signature escargot, wild boar, and souffles. But last year, at age 73, Davoudi decided to retire.

Maurice and his older brother, Giuseppe, got wind of the news and contacted the property broker, only to be told that it had already sold. But a few months later, that deal fell through. So, Maurice invited Davoudi to the Grandview to talk. The two hit it off, and a new deal was forged.

“I love history. I love a challenge,” Maurice explains. “For a lot of people, when they open a restaurant, it’s all about location, location, location. But to them, that means foot traffic. For me, the more unique the location, the better. If you do a good job, people will come.”

And since La Forêt’s reopening in October, they have—packing the dining room, where the chandeliers have been refurbished and the wood darkened.

The Carrubbas kept the chefs, as well as maître d’ Sami Deeb, who has welcomed guests since 1982. Housemade pastas like lobster-shrimp ravioli have been added to the menu, as well as a 14-ounce bone-in Angus rib-eye. Maurice plans to increase the game offerings, which made La Forêt famous. Later this year, he hopes to feature his Mount Hamilton beef that’s raised on his 50-acre farm across from the Grandview.

What’s more, there’s even a new Le Grande Johnnie cocktail, a blend of Johnny Walker Blue, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, ginger soda and lime, created in Davoudi’s honor. “I know the place is in good hands,” Davoudi says. “The spirit is still here.”

That’s precisely why the Carrubbas couldn’t pass it up. “These places are gems,” says Maurice. “If it had no life in it, then fine; just close the doors and let it be developed. But when this closed, there were a lot of unhappy people. This place is home for so many.”

21747 Bertram Road, San Jose, 408.997.3458

Originally published in the January/February issue of Silicon Valley

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