Kurt Spataro '88 (Music)
Cooking up success, again and again
Wrong food. Wrong location. Wrong clientele.
Randy Paragary and Kurt Spataro have seen countless restaurants come and go in the Capital region.
And, admittedly, many have been wayward eateries of their own. In a market that can statistically see up to seven out of 10 restaurants fail within the first year, Paragary has a knack for recognizing, and transforming, flailing concepts. Since his career began in 1969, he’s reopened and re-designed up to 25 restaurants.
“I don’t ride an idea into the ground,” says Paragary, whose restaurant reign began while he was a government student at Sac State in 1969. “I’ve been light enough on my feet to say ‘This is not working, let’s go to plan B.’ That has kept me in business.”
Indeed, the names Paragary and Spataro are synonymous with fine dining in the Sacramento region. With Paragary’s business savvy and executive chef Spataro’s gourmet spin on old and new favorites, the two credit each other for their success.
“His commitment to quality and freshness is unwavering,” Paragary says of Spataro, who attended music classes at Sac State during the mid-1980s. “He doesn’t take any shortcuts. He’s not trying to do things that are off the wall or esoteric.”
“Sometimes in business you have to detach yourself a little bit and not get too involved in a restaurant or a property,” Spataro says of Paragary. “In the restaurant business it’s very important to know that some things just don’t work.”
Together with Paragary’s wife Stacy, the Paragary’s Restaurant Group has 12 restaurants in the Sacramento area, including the enduring Paragary’s Bar & Oven, the Italian-inspired Spataro Restaurant and Bar, and the Esquire Grill, a popular venue with the Capitol crowd near the convention center.
But they haven’t always been so high-concept.
Paragary’s first effort—the Parapow Palace Saloon—was inspired by a Crosby, Stills and Nash album cover.
“It wasn’t any kind of revolutionary thinking,” he says. “We were hippies and there weren’t places for us to go that had that anti-establishment look to it.”
Then in the early ‘80s, Paragary teamed up with Spataro, a talented short-order cook in the kitchen of his then-restaurant Zito’s, offering him a partnership.
They now oversee 500 employees and spend a million dollars each year on produce alone at their Italian-,French-, bistro- and Mexican-influenced restaurants.
Paragary earned his law degree in 1976. Spataro’s wizardry in the kitchen is self-taught, drawing much of his early culinary talent from his Sicilian-born grandmother as well as from his French-Canadian Midwestern grandmother.
“Things like mashed potatoes or a plate of sautéed spinach,” Spataro says, “those are really the simple things but those are the things that need to be really great.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2007 edition of Sac State Magazine.