BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — If you’ve been missing a part of your Old Town Kern experience, good news. Narducci’s is back.
History wafts through Old Town Kern like sautéed garlic, from the Sumner Train Depot local preservationists are currently trying to save, to the Pyrenees Café, which has been serving cabbage soup with all the Basque accouterments since the Grover Cleveland administration – the second one. Narducci’s can tell tales of yore with the best of them, though.
The Naducci’s story starts in 1894, when Marius Cesmat built a 22-room hotel right there on East 21st Street. President William McKinley stayed one night in 1900 and spoke from balcony. Five years later Cesmat was shot without warning and killed by a deranged sheepherder. Frank and Anselma Amestoy bought the hotel in 1927, and daughter Josephine sold it to Raymond Matia in 1964. Marino Narducci bought it in 1967, renamed the restaurant Marino’s, and in 1997 passed it to his son Jimmy, who renamed the historic building Narducci’s Café.
It was a popular place until a few years ago when personnel drama led to some defections and eventually closure. Now, after a couple of false starts, it’s open again.
Meet Edgar Ruelas, who worked here as a dishwasher in his early 20s. Now, at 34, he’s running the place.
“It had been closed for about four years now, so there was about a quarter inch of dust everywhere, man. You walk in, it was like walking on the moon,” Ruelas said.
Not a hint of moon dust now. It looks the same or better than it did even last time it was open, from the spotless but well worn bar to the vintage neon signs overhead. Including the Arizona Café sign, which Jimmy Narducci must have won on a bet – because that Baker Street landmark is still open and doing fine.
Ruelas says he is happy to be bringing back this great piece of history.
“I started realizing there was so much history to this place,” he said. “People tell me, hey, you know, older people, I remember when I was a kid and my father would take me here.”
Some Narducci’s traditions are coming back, some not. The Thursday steak, once regarded as the best value in town, is almost ready for its reintroduction, although Ruelas can’t promise 2016 prices.
But we’ll have to wait a little longer for live music. Ruelas needs to get the proper permits. Same goes for the liquor license. For now, it’s just beer and wine.
“Look at it, man, it’s a beautiful place,” Ruelas said. “People try to mimic this look for certain restaurants, but this is the real deal.”
The Basque pub crawl, which was missing its halfway point stop between Luigi’s and Pyrenees Café, is almost back to full strength now. The vacant former home of the Noriega Hotel, that’s still quiet. Perhaps that’s a story for another day.