In Search of a $100 Burger? – WVI Restaurant Reopens

WATSONVILLE  Six months after Props Restaurant & Lounge shuttered at the Watsonville Municipal Airport, a new restaurant is looking to fill the vacant space. Ella’s at the Airport will seek approval by the Watsonville City Council Tuesday to lease the space on 100 Aviation Way for three years.

In August, the airport submitted a request for proposals, and after receiving various responses, selected a proposal by Sergio Angeles and Tiffany Ella King, according to a report by Steve Palmisano, director of Public Works and Utilities, and Rayvon Williams , airport manager. King also owns Cafe Ella at 734 East Lake Ave. Since its 2007 opening, it has amassed a sizable base of loyal customers who snap up the lunchtime offerings, but who have also beseeched her to offer dinner. While the small space made such endeavors a difficult proposition , moving into the new digs will not only allow for the expanded menu, but will also let King grow her burgeoning catering arm of the restaurant. “We’re very excited about it,” King said.

Once open, Ella’s at the Airport will offer an Italian-California blend of dishes, with pasta, free-range meats and sustainable seafood choices. King attributed her success in part to a growing appetite among diners for healthy, fromscratch cooking and for businesses that use local ingredients . She said she strives as much as possible to tap into Watsonville’s agricultural strengths. “We have such a beautiful abundance of produce and seafood and meat,” she said. “Everything about Watsonville screams food, and we’re going to focus on that.”

King said she’s considering using the restaurant’s patio as a wine garden, and to have a barbecue there once a week. “The Watsonville Airport has such great charm, and it’s going to be fun to bring in our charm,” she said. King said she is aiming to open in mid-January .

The airport reached an agreement with Angeles and King for the 2,400 square feet of restaurant space, as well as 430 square feet of patio space. The lease rate is $2,300 per month for three years, according to the report. Ella’s at the Airport will make about $40,000 in improvements, including upgrades to the restaurant entrance, dining area, bar and kitchen.

Props Restaurant closed on April 23, after owner Andrew Crocker cited slow business. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, and city leaders said he had not paid his rent since August 2013. Props opened in August 2012 after Zuniga’s Mexican Food Restaurant closed. The restaurant began life as The Belly Landing around 1980, and owners Jean Ann Mason and Phil White sold it in 1987 to Linda and Michael Butier who ran it as Michael’s Bar & Grill. It changed hands again when Larry Brindley opened Zuniga’s .