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Sprouts & Shutters: Mama Rosa's Mysterious Closure

Public records show the restaurant was owned by the family of Marino and Nicole Sandoval, the couple who owned the now defunct El Balazo and were convicted of fraud in 2012.

PLEASANTON, Ca:  6770 Santa Rita Road Photo Credit: Autumn Johnson/ Patch
PLEASANTON, Ca: 6770 Santa Rita Road Photo Credit: Autumn Johnson/ Patch

By Autumn Johnson

Mama Rosa's Pizza and Pasta restaurant on 6770 Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton appears to have closed. The windows are dark, the tables and decor have been removed and there is a "closed" sign in the window of the Italian restaurant. Few details are available behind the Italian restaurant's sudden closure. The last post on the Mama Rosa Facebook page was in November and calls and emails to the restaurant have gone unanswered.

Despite the closure, the Mama Rosa's Facebook page and restaurant website are still up.

The 5,502 square foot restaurant at 6770 Santa Rita Road has been listed as available for lease through the Lockehouse Team commercial real estate group since Dec. 10, 2013.

"We are looking for a strong new tenant and have gotten good traction so far," Aaron Dan of Lockehouse said.

Dan was not able to comment as to the reason behind the vacancy and said the property owner also declined to comment, although Dan did confirm the corporation listed as the tenants of the restaurant were the "Sandoval Food Corporation."

Dan wrote, via email:  

"The corporation is/was headed by Marino Sandoval, his wife, and his two children."

According to records found online with the State of California, the Sandoval Food Enterprises, Inc. is listed as the company that had been running the restaurant. Sebastian Sandoval, who is listed as the "Agent for Service of Process," is the son of Marino Sandoval, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times from March of 2010.

A records check with the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's Office, lists both Sebastian and “Savarine Sandoval” as the owners of Mama Rosa’s since 2009. Nicole Sandoval used the name "Savarine" Nicole Sandoval, along with Sebastian's name, on the California State Alcohol Beverage Control website on an alcohol license they held for the El Balazo restaurant in Pleasanton.

The sudden closure of Mama Rosa's is similar to the infamous El Balazo closures.

On April 27, 2012, Pleasanton Patch reported that Marino, who owned the El Balazo restaurant chain throughout the Bay Area, was sentenced to 41 months in prison time after he and his wife, Nicole Sandoval, pled guilty to charges relating to undocumented immigrants, using fake social security numbers and under reporting on taxes. Nicole was sentenced to five years probation and 12 months of community confinement. Both were ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

[Related article: El Balazo Owners Sentenced for Fraud, Employing Undocumented Workers]

Attempts to reach the Sandoval family for comment about the Mama Rosa's closure have been unsuccessful.

Will you miss Mama Rosa's? Tell us your thoughts about the closure in the comments section below.



Sara Michelle Solis January 09, 2014 at 05:01 PM
I don't miss the restaurant at all, I'm loving the abundance of new Trader Joe's parking, however!!
Sue January 09, 2014 at 05:37 PM
Gee, why doesn't this surprise me. I knew it was just a matter of time. They were probably hiring undocumented workers as well. Apples normally don't fall too far from the tree.
timothy January 09, 2014 at 05:45 PM
I am amazed the DA didn't take away all of their assets. They got off easy. As someone said, I bet they still own their mansions. I wonder what other restaurants they "own". I sure would like to know. Investigative journalism, where did you go?
Andy Smith January 10, 2014 at 09:47 AM
I never knew they were the same people behind El Balazo (or however it's spelled). All I know is that I miss Buttercup Pantry at the first location, and I miss the pie restaurant at the second location (Baker's Square?).
Mari January 10, 2014 at 10:03 AM
You know what I have been following the Sandoval story and did think that these restaurants were of the same owner this confirm it. I can always tell if a business will make I do not know if it's my business experiences or my 7 senses but so far I have been very right on. With Mama Rosa, I felt something wrong. Like a death in the way it presented itself in its food. Barely alive on oxygen tanks. This proves my thinking one can not run a business with skeleton in the closet.
linda curtis January 10, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Despite the family's unscrupulous business practices, I already miss the burritos at El Balazo (later changed to La Palapa)!! Our family was there when Mama Rosa opened and we enjoyed their food. I believe it was the service, or lack thereof, that helped bring MR down-
Joe January 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM
We live a short walk away. They served the best pasta dishes that I've ever eaten, especially their cantaloni and lasagna. Their pizza was really good - as good as or better than Gay 90's. I've never had a bad meal, and service was usually prompt & courteous. We've eaten there many times and we are shocked. We're going to really miss the place. I don't think that they could have been hiring undocumented workers. They might be closing because of their previous legal problems or maybe they were breaking other laws.
Mary January 10, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Tried the pizza once, disappointing, won't miss it.
Linda M January 10, 2014 at 04:55 PM
Mary, one trip to a restaurant does not give a complete picture; I'm sorry your one and only attempt didn't work out for you. Sara Michelle Solis, TJ's shoppers parked at Mama Rosa designated spots all the time. The owners never made an issue of it preferring to be neighborly to their neighbors, so the parking shouldn't even be an issue now. I make these comments because I worked at Mama Rosa for almost three years. Like anything else in life, there were good times and "bad" and I guess the good outweighed the bad overall. We had some fantastic customers that I will greatly miss. And I'll miss the good people I worked with. I never got to say goodbye to either patrons or fellow employees and that makes me angry. See, even the staff was kept clueless and in the dark about the impending closure, though the talk was it was probably imminent. We just had no idea how deeply troubled the business was, though. And if the property has been listed for a month now (per the link to the property management page), that means the family knew at least two weeks before they locked up for good that it was to be. The poor server who showed up to work Christmas Eve had no idea it would be her last night until sometime before she went home - and she had only been hired less than a month previously. How's that for you? I was on a two-week badly needed break form two jobs. Nobody from Mama Rosa called to tell me I no longer had a job there. Had I not had occasion to stop by Mama Rosa last Saturday, I would have shown up as usual for my Tuesday night shift - half-price pizza night. And as of this writing, not one of the family members has returned my phone calls/messages or my text messages. Now, I'll say that overall they treated me fairly well. The family is "kind" to the employees for the most part - that cannot be said for all businesses - so I'm not sorry I was affiliated with them for so long. I'm just very sorry and still pretty angry about the poor treatment I'm receiving here at the end. It's unprofessional, to say the least, but had I done more research on them, maybe some of it could have been avoided on my part. So many times in the past six months or longer I considered finding other employment. But i did have a sense of loyalty to them for personal reasons. I didn't want to cause them any more stress than they already experienced. And I NEVER expected them to pull the rug ou from under me. Never.
timothy January 10, 2014 at 05:05 PM
Linda that is really sad and a sign that the owners only care about themselves and their riches. Shame on them. They should all be in jail as well as be stripped of their assets because they defrauded people and the US government. I would like to know what else they own so I can be sure to boycott them. We should run people like them out of town. And shame on the few of you who supported them know of their shady history.
Linda M January 10, 2014 at 07:20 PM
Timothy, I really hope you are not suggesting that we as employees somehow supported the Sandovals' business practices by our continued employment. That couldn't be further from the truth. Speaking for myself, I didn't know their history before working for them. And for at least eight months after I started I was unaware of their legal issues. Another employee actually clued me in, but I was then given varying stories about what was going on. It took some time to figure out they were not being straight with me. Go figure, felons lied to me. And in each closure, many employees never received final paychecks. We were all duped to one degree or another. And as you said, it was for their own benefit and no one else mattered.
Becky January 11, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Timothy, Why do you think they should have ALL their assets seized? I'm sure the IRS is taking what it's owed plus penalties. SAC Capital didn't have all its assets seized after the Fed found insider trading was rampant there.
Deanna Cloonan January 26, 2014 at 10:54 PM
Our family had always enjoyed their pizza EVERY Friday and a lot of Tuesdays for their 1/2 price pizzas. We will miss MaMa Rosas, but our question is "where did their master pizza maker go", because that is where we will be getting our pizzas from.
Linda M January 27, 2014 at 07:18 PM
Since there were at least three or four pizza makers, Deanna Cloonan, it would be difficult to pinpoint who made your pizzas each week. One would have been Sebastian, the owner of record. I don't think he's got another restaurant yet. Another would have been the awesome Francisco. I have no idea where else he works, but I kind of wish I did. I'd like to say "good-bye" to him. He's a good guy. And if you ever ordered a pasta dish or perhaps another entree, Isauro (spelling?) would have prepared that for you. He, too, is a great guy - with a family and responsibilities. They were a good crew to work with and I miss them.
timothy January 27, 2014 at 09:33 PM
Rumor has it all were deported.

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