Town Crier: Go-to Montclair eatery marks 25 years


Ginny Prior/for Bay Area News Group Italian Colors, a go-to restaurant for many Montclarions, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Guitarist Michael Wollenberg, above, who has played at the restaurant since it began, performs Christmas tunes for diners on a recent night.


Italian Colors has beaten the odds. The go-to restaurant for so many Montclarions is celebrating its 25th anniversary — remarkable when you consider 90 percent of independent restaurants close during their first year and the rest last an average of just five years. For owner/chef Alan Carlson, it’s a matter of pride.

“We are proud of our relationships with our employees, some of whom are still our original hires,” he says, adding that longtime guests are like family too. “Some have been coming since the opening day and we have some great history with these people, weddings, birthdays, anniversary’s, retirement partys, etc.”

I saw just what he meant the other night. My neighbor, Libbi Ziegler, was greeting and seating guests. Guitarist Michael Wollenberg (who’s been playing at Italian Colors for 25 years) was serenading diners with melodic Christmas tunes. Eric Levine was crafting cocktails behind the bar, and Alan’s son, Dylan, was helping oversee the house. With soft holiday lights illuminating the room, there was a warm feeling of well-being on an otherwise cold winter’s eve. Intoxicating indeed — even for those not inclined to imbibe. And the dining experience has been carefully crafted.

“We are proud of the fact that we continue to change with the times in both our food and beverage areas,” says Carlson, adding they serve sustainably-sourced food whenever possible, always with an emphasis on quality.

There is one change that longtime customers lament — the retirement of Carlson’s former partner, Steve Montgomery, who is recovering from a major stroke and heart issues. While initially told he would never walk again, Carlson says his friend “has proven everyone wrong with grit and fortitude.”

And those are two words that seem a propos for Carlson too. With grit and fortitude — and a short rib recipe that’s out of this world — he’s made Italian Colors a celebrated part of our Montclair community.

Travel talk: If you think flying is a big holiday humbug, here’s a bit of good news. The Terminal 2 security checkpoint at Oakland International Airport now has soothing sites and sounds to reduce your stress levels. As you’re wrestling with your roller bag, notice the redwood forest around you and breathe. Once on the plane, the air won’t be quite as fresh.

Ring it in: Go big or go home. This saying seems tailor-made for New Year’s Eve. And while many folks stay home on this night of extreme celebration, here are a few thoughts for folks looking to go big:

Party in the sky atop the Hilton Union Square. Cityscape Lounge has a New Year’s Eve dance party, drink specials and a 360-degree view of San Francisco from the 46th floor.

And speaking of sky … Chabot Space & Science Center is hosting its popular balloon drop on New Year’s Eve day at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. A favorite, especially for kids, the balloons are let loose on the strokes of midnight around the world.

Got news? You can reach Ginny at or on the web at Be sure to follow Ginny Prior on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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