That will be the last night Fabio’s Italian Restaurant, a downtown institution for nearly two decades, will serve dinners in its location in the Ten-Bee Village at 10th and B streets.
Roe Bridges, who has operated the restaurant since 2003, will close Fabio’s, and she knows of no plans for another restaurant to take its place.
The Ten-Bee shopping complex, which last December lost another anchor when Richard’s Men’s Wear closed, is owned by Peter Magliras, a former Modesto resident who now lives in Greece. He also owns the former J.C. Penney building across B Street
“We attempted to sell Fabio’s, but it just didn’t work out,” Bridges said. “I think it’s great that two new restaurants will be opening on 10th Street, but I hope the downtown will have an Italian restaurant sometime soon.”
A look at the menu of Fabio’s confirms that it was indeed a real Italian restaurant run by a proprietor who, as a young girl, started learning Italian cooking from family members.
“I grew up in an Italian neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and my grandmother and an aunt lived near our home,” said Roe, whose maiden name was Trapasso.
“There was Italian food being prepared all around me,” she recalled. “I remember as a girl making homemade gnocchi rolled with a fork.”
She didn’t set out to operate a restaurant. Instead, she took acting lessons at the Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City with the goal of becoming an actor.
She recalled acting in several off-Broadway comedies and performing stand-up comedy, starting in New York and later in Los Angeles and San Jose.
It was in Silicon Valley that Roe met her husband, Mark Bridges, who was a Sunnyvale police officer. He later retired as a lieutenant after 29 years.
The Bridges moved to Tracy in 1994 in search of a small-town lifestyle and good schools for their daughters.
In 2003, the lure of owning an Italian restaurant prompted them to buy Fabio’s, which had been opened in 1993 in the same location in the corner of Ten-Bee Village by Kevin and Nancy Cairns.
The restaurant has 80 seats, counting the dining room and a lounge that features a full bar.
“We continued making our own pasta and some of the original recipes,” Roe said, “but we added a number of my own family’s specialties.”
Among those specialties have been lasagna, a favorite of many customers, and a variety of pasta dishes, including the popular capellini medley that includes angel-hair pasta, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto and garlic.
“We have been one of the few restaurants still serving veal,” she said. “We tried our best to make our offerings authentic with true, fresh ingredients.”
Fabio’s was open for lunch for several years, but that wasn’t a winner, so the restaurant has been open Tuesday through Saturday evenings.
Roe has been present nearly every evening and makes it a point to greet diners, many of whom are regular customers.
“The Italian families of the Tracy area have been especially supportive, and they, along with other Tracy residents, have become good friends of ours over the years,” she reported.
And speaking of families: The three daughters of the Bridges family have all grown up working at Fabio’s as waitresses, and so have many of the daughters’ friends.
Diana, 26, is now a teacher in Sonoma County; Samantha, 24, will soon receive her registered nursing degree at San Joaquin Delta College; and Andrea, 18, will graduate this month from Tracy High School and then enroll in Sonoma State University.
“They all learned a lot about working hard, making their own money and meeting the public,” Roe said of her daughters. “It was a good experience for them, and I loved having them work with me.”
With retirement looming, Roe and husband Mark are planning major trips in their recreational vehicle.
“We’ve already visited 42 states, and now we can start making return trips,” she said. “Operating a restaurant can tie you down, but now we’ll be free to take some extended trips.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.