Business Buzz – September 2019

(Elana O'Loskey, Photographer)
Chef Lino Rios and Asst. Manager C. Rose introduce their new Mexican Monday dinner menu. All selections are made from Rios’ family recipes with fresh ingredients daily. 

Casa Orinda Debuts Mexican Mondays
    When Head Chef Lino Rios of Casa Orinda was asked to create a menu for Mexican Mondays, the flavors and aromas of the meals he says he enjoyed with his family in Oaxaca came to mind. His mother, Tecla Ramirez, insisted every ingredient was fresh daily, every dish made from scratch.
    Now Orindans can enjoy authentic dishes such as ceviche made with fresh halibut and petrale sole; capon in house-made mole sauce; chiles rellenos made with chicken, carnitas or vegetarian; crab, chicken or steak fajitas; huevos rancheros; tortas, and carnitas enchiladas.
    Rios’ signature red salsa begins with fire roasting tomatoes, chilis de arbol and jalapenos. He then adds roasted garlic, cilantro and lime juice; it’s served with house-made corn chips. The heat is just right and the flavor lingers. His vegetarian chiles rellenos begin with roasted pasilla chilis (seeds and skin removed) which are then filled with celery, onions, garlic, potatoes, green beans, cilantro and mozzarella. Sometimes he makes them with chicken or beef with a little cumin. His sauces are flavorful and complement each dish. A $5 margarita completes the meal.
    Before donning the traditional tall white chef’s toque, Rios spent almost two decades learning everything about producing Casa Orinda’s 52 dinner items, 14 side dishes and seven daily specials. He’s done his homework. Rios, his wife Claudia Zermeno and sons Ivan and Julian live in El Sobrante where they tend a big garden.
    Casa Orinda’s supportive 40 member team, like Rios, tends to stay the course. Jairo Gomez is the one remaining staff member who began working with one of the original Snow brothers in the 1960s.
    General Manager Claudia Tata and Assistant Manager C. Rose have decades of experience in the restaurant business. Tata’s was at the Wine Train in Napa and Rose’s was at Chez Panisse, plus her own restaurant. Together they work to keep the vibe welcoming but efficient. Rose says that Casa Orinda is the “Cheers” of Orinda because “the atmosphere here is convivial, women dine alone or have a cocktail at the bar, everyone is friendly and who they are, no social strata here. We welcome children and offer great food at full value – our portions are generous.”
    Tata says in 2018 they served 24,000 dishes of their signature dinner: fried chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes, vegetables and freshly made biscuits served with Orinda resident Steve’s Bees honey. They are busiest in the winter, lightest in the summer. For dinners they average 1,300 to 1,500 meals per week, about 250 to 300 on a weekend. Regulars return for fresh fish and seafood delivered daily, prime rib to order, house-made desserts and of course, the full bar.
    Regarding drinks, it’ll take a while to work through the wine menus but it is a worthy cause. There are two printed menus which makes it easy to order by the glass or by the bottle. Contemplate the 38 choices on the bottle and glass menu and 18 on the by-the-glass menu. So far the spirits poured by the bartenders and cocktails they serve do not disappoint.
    The Goyak family has owned Casa Orinda since 1978; John Goyak is the present owner. The history of this, the oldest continually running restaurant in Contra Costa County, is on their website.
    Casa Orinda is at 20 Bryant Way. Call them at 925-254-2981 or go to Open for dinner daily beginning at 4 p.m.: Mon. – Sat. 4 to 10 p.m., Sunday 4 to 9 p.m. The bar is open Mon. – Thurs. 4 to 11 p.m., on Fri. – Sat. from 4 p.m. to midnight, and on Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.

(Elana O'Loskey, Photographer)
Golden retriever Harley and golden retriever/border collie mix Bo have it made in the shade during their morning walk with Pete Ritter of Animal House Pet and Home Care.

Animal House Pet and Home Care
    When it’s time to see a man about a dog, Pete Ritter is your guy. Since 2005 he has worked with Lamorinda residents who need someone reliable and experienced to take care of their pet and/or home while they’re away.
    Tired of playing cat and mouse in the corporate world, Ritter decided to leave the dog-eat-dog workplace. Originally from Canada, Ritter and his wife, Colleen, had already lived in several U.S. cities and in 2000 settled in Orinda.
    They say they are delighted that Lamorinda turned out to be the perfect home for Animal House (AH). An animal lover since childhood, Ritter often cared for his neighbors’ pets and homes when they were out of town. Making the transition to AH was like water off a duck’s back.
    His pet services include feedings, walks, administering medication, yard/litterbox cleanup, transportation to local veterinarian or groomer, filling bird feeders and keeping birdbaths filled. Since Ritter opened AH he’s been to every vet and emergency animal clinic in the area; no wild goose chases for him. That’s because he offers to take his clients’ pets for emergency vet or clinic visits when necessary.
    Ritter likes to visit a potential pet sitting client for a meet and greet. Once he’s acquainted with a dog and they are out on a walk, he never carries his cell phone so that he can focus on the dog and their time together. “It disturbs the dogs, too,” he says.
    For home care he will take out the garbage, bring in mail/papers/packages, check the premises, rotate lighting, adjust window coverings, care for and water plants and handle the alarm system. He also offers emergency visits to clients’ homes. AH is fully bonded and insured. Testimonials on the company website report he returns calls, text messages and emails promptly. Ritter encourages potential clients to review his website and ask for references.
    Ritter says everyone asks him which are his favorite pets to take care of but he plays no favorites – he’s happy as a lark caring for all of them. The short list of pets he has cared for includes dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, laying hens, lizards, fish and gerbils.
    Contact Ritter at 925-368-8978, email him at or go to

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