After decades in some of Sacramento’s best kitchens, as well as opening restaurants in Chicago, Miami and Cabo San Lucas, Jonathan Kerksieck and Katie Kinner-Kerksieck new project is nothing short of sleepy by comparison. And that’s the way they want it.
The husband-and-wife team plans to open an Italian restaurant called Cacio next Tuesday at 7600 Greenhaven Drive, Suite 23. The unit in Riverlake Village Shopping Center is just 900 square feet, but manages to squeeze 32 seats inside — plus eight more on an exterior patio — by making more use of the bar space than Ravenous Cafe, which closed last month.
Unlike their previous projects, the couple will own Cacio (along with investor and Marly & Moo founder Brian Knadle, Jonathan’s former kitchen comrade at Piatti). Although not located in much of a culinary hotspot, the restaurant is two miles from their front door and offers a cuisine largely foreign to Pocket neighborhoods.
“If you want Italian food, you have to go to midtown or you have to go downtown and I think we both just wanted to get out of that corporate life of going downtown to work,” Katie said. “We wanted to be close to home and in a neighborhood that we love.”
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Kerksieck culinary career included stops at Biba, Paragary’s and Piatti before the Curtis Park native became the sous chef at Masque in El Dorado Hills. He was later promoted to executive chef and, after a five-year hiatus developing pasta for Valley Fine Foods, took kitchen boss positions at Selland’s Market-Cafe, OBO’ and Esquire Grill, which he quit last month to open Cacio.
Kinner-Kerksieck’s résumé reads just as impressively. She started as a server at Fox & Goose and the now-closed Spataro Restaurant & Bar before opening hotel restaurants as a manager around the U.S. and in Mexico, including Americano in San Francisco’s Hotel Vitale. She’s been a wine manager and assistant general at Piatti and a business consultant, and like her husband, she’s a Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 2 with a fondness for Californian and Italian reds.
Kerksieck will run the kitchen while Kinner-Kerksieck serves plates, pours drinks and does everything else required of a front-of-house manager. Other than the couple’s 14- and 15-year-old sons washing dishes on weekends, it’ll be a two-person show.
“I’ve told them they don’t have to follow me into this line of work, but they will work two years in the kitchen to learn teamwork, responsibility and how to hustle,” Kerksieck said.
The couple met in 2008, when she was the front-of-house manager and he was the chef de cuisine at the newly-opened Grange. Both were grieving the recent loss of their fathers, Kinner-Kerksieck said, which served as an odd point of familiarity during the chaotic first months.
“I was intimidated because it was my first management job and he was well-seasoned,” she said. “It was crunchtime hiring people, writing manuals, doing all of that stuff ... that I didn’t have any experience with. He kind of taught me that it works out. You find a way through it and it works out.”
One of the first dishes Kerksieck cooked for her — cacio e pepe, a vibrant Roman mixture of pasta, cheese, pepper and oil — appears on Cacio’s menu. Other highlights include a roasted beet salad with avocado, fennel, almonds and goat cheese, a spaghetti dish with poach egg and pancetta and a daily panini special, plus three rotating wines and two beers or ciders on tap.
It’s a more relaxed menu than Ravenous Cafe’s filet mignon and escargot, with most entrees under $15 and a chef willing to cook off-menu dishes upon request.
“We want people, if they don’t have a reservation, to still feel like they can come here and have a couple of courses and not kill the bank account,” said Kinner-Kerksieck
Cacio is open 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with daily closures from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday brunch service is planned for the future.