In a move prompted in part by increased competition for Sacramentans' food dollars, downtown dining fixture Spataro Restaurant & Bar will shut down after the last diner is served on Saturday.
The restaurant at 1415 L St., across from the Capitol, is scheduled to reopen April 15 as Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, a new, smaller venue embracing the current "farm to fork" trend, which emphasizes ingredients from nearby farms. Spataro's bar will reopen as a separate nightclub called Vanguard.
Spataro's switch follows other changes made in recent years by eateries affiliated with Randy Paragary, who once dominated the central city restaurant scene but in recent years has faced competition from numerous newcomers that have garnered critical recognition and crowds of diners.
Spataro is named after Kurt Spataro, the executive chef of Paragary Restaurant Group and a partner in the company.
"We really appreciate the support over the last eight years and take a lot of pride in it," Spataro said of his namesake eatery. "At some point, though, these things generally come to an end for one reason or another.
"Today, it's more about being casual and being nimble and being smaller. This is the new concept."
Hock Farm will be owned by Paragary Restaurant Group in partnership with three former Paragary employees - executive chef David LaRoche, a protege of Spataro, and managing partners Shaun Freeman and Brad Peters.
"We've had many talented employees leave us to open their own concepts. This is a way for us to retain that talent, as well as bring a fresh perspective," Paragary said in a statement.
Callista Wengler, a spokeswoman for Paragary Restaurant Group, said the changeover stems in part from "increased competition" but also reflects a trend toward less formal restaurants where "you don't have to dress up."
While not saying Spataro was failing with its current makeup, she did say the upscale restaurant was hurt by the recession and a corresponding decrease in events at the nearby Community Center Theater.
The Hock Farm name is based on the Sutter Hock Farm agricultural settlement established in 1841 by John Augustus Sutter. The restaurant's design will be an ode to Sacramento Valley history with a modern interpretation of rustic styles of the 1850s. Local and regional fabricators and artisans will work on creating the new dining room.
Hock Farm Craft & Provisions will periodically feature products of local farm operations. Spataro said featured farms might change as often as week to week.
LaRoche plans to obtain items directly from farmers but will also frequent farmers markets downtown.
The farm-to-fork movement has swept the country, and chefs in the Sacramento area have been trying to establish the capital as a major hub of the trend, given the city's location in the middle of some of the nation's most productive farmland. Mayor Kevin Johnson is promoting Sacramento as "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital."
Paragary's Restaurant Group predates the current trend, but Spataro said finding locally grown food "has always been part of our philosophy and approach."
"Chef Spataro helped me build relationships with many local farms and producers over the years. He and Randy pioneered Sacramento's farm-to-fork movement years ago, and I want to reflect that legacy in my menu," LaRoche said.
The Paragary group, marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of Paragary's Bar and Oven in Sacramento, has increasingly embraced a casual approach to dining with its chain of Cafe Bernardo restaurants.
In January, Paragary announced plans to open a new Cafe Bernardo restaurant around midyear in the Pavilions shopping complex along Fair Oaks Boulevard.
The group currently operates three Cafe Bernardo restaurants in Sacramento and one in Davis. The Cafe Bernardo at 10th and K streets was formerly the Cosmo Cafe, which Paragary converted last year after the Cosmo site failed to draw a sufficient number of cabaret-goers.
Mike Testa, senior vice president of convention sales for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, characterized the upcoming Spataro conversion as "great"
He added: "When you look at the history of Sacramento's food scene and the thousands of acres of farms we have right here, the concept makes sense.
"Nationally, a lot of cities are adopting the concept, but so many of our producers are right here ... We don't have to build up to be farm-to-fork. We already are."
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.