Italian Colors is celebrating 15th year

Town Crier/Ginny Prior

COMFORT FOOD and couples counseling. It sounds like the recipe for a good marriage. But it’s also the secret to success for one of Montclair’s longest operating restaurants — Italian Colors.

“Fifteen years doesn’t come along in many things,” said co-owner Steve Montgomery. “We’re a marriage.”

That’s how he sees his business partnership with chef Alan Carlson, who runs the kitchen while Montgomery handles the front room. They’ve been doing it this way since Italian Colors opened in 1993 at 2220 Mountain Blvd. No. 100.

Then there’s the third owner — a not-so-silent partner. It’s Alan’s wife, Diane, a Rockridge psychologist who keeps the business relationship running smoothly.

“If she senses it’s time for the three of us to talk,” Carlson said, “we sit down and talk.”

She counsels the staff, some of whom go back to the restaurant’s beginning. Mike Wollenberg is one of those guys. He’s the guitarist who’s been playing for customers since 1993.

“I’ve played in restaurants for over 30 years,” he said. “This is the best place. It’s like a team here.”

Wollenberg’s mellow jazz and pop sounds are often augmented by those of his teenage daughter Leah, a Celtic fiddler.

As a special treat, usually later in the evening, the guys in the kitchen might join in, adding a heavy metal flair. With half the employees having worked there a decade, it’s no wonder they feel like family.

And that’s what I call a great neighborhood restaurant.

MONTCLAIR MIXER: Speaking of anniversaries, the Montclair Bistro is four years old and celebrating with a menu of entrees for $20 or less. Tonight’s celebrity bartender program from 6-9 p.m. supports the long-running local production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Stop by and order a drink from Bishop O’Dowd Principal Joe Salamack or “Christmas Carol” director/producer Danny Buell. There’ll be live jazz and plenty of libations!

AMAZING MAZE: It took nine years and 194 tons of stone and gravel to make the new labyrinth that’s being dedicated at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Skyline United Church of Christ, 12540 Skyline Blvd.

Reader Lee Rutter said the maze borders park land and is a peaceful place to walk and contemplate life. Up until now, the church was perhaps best known in the community for its annual blessing of the animals. Cats, dogs, a miniature horse and even a pet cockroach have been blessed at this wild and wooly event. This year, it’s scheduled on Oct. 4.

ANIMAL TALES: Here’s a reason for pet insurance if I ever heard one.

Reader Greg Saucedo said he and his girlfriend spent over $2,000 recently on a vet bill for his cat. Seems the little fur ball has a penchant for rubber band hair ties and made of feast of them when the master wasn’t looking. The result was a life-threatening tummy ache that showed up on the X-ray like a bucket full of worms. Kitty is fine after surgery and the hair ties are now being kept in a drawer.


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