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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023
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Rollin’ in Dough

As the old saying goes, if you’re not successful the first time around, try and try again.

In the case of Jon Mangini, a former hospitality company executive who dreamed of opening his own restaurant, it took nine tries.

“I always wanted to go it on my own,” said Mangini, 34. “But each time something stopped me in my tracks.”

That was before he struck on the idea for Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar, which opened in spring 2006 near Petco Park in a converted Tenth Avenue warehouse and specializes in thin-crust, brick-oven pizza ala the little Italian bistros he hung out in as a kid growing up in Connecticut.

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Serving a simple menu of pies with a variety of toppings and libations in a fashionably gritty environment where garage-style doors open up to brick walls and concrete floors, Basic , a pioneer in the redeveloped industrial district , has a mixed clientele of baseball fans, tourists and others out for a night on the town.

“This place is its own billboard because 30,000 to 40,000 people pass by here going to and from the games, and those who don’t come in when they see we’re packed, return later,” he said.


Right Location

Sales that jumped to $3 million in 2007 from $1.8 million in the first year would attest to that. As with any restaurant venture, selecting the right location was extremely important.

But Mangini, who found 10 equity investors to help bring the dough to the table to open Basic, was wise to avoid following in the footsteps of other downtown restaurateurs and club owners, said Heidi Hageman, his publicist.

“He foresaw the shift happening in the Gaslamp Quarter nightlife scene,” she said. “Restaurants and clubs were overdoing themes.”

While many say downtown is saturated with night spots, more keep popping up. Yet Mangini said he didn’t want his to among the trendier ones whose shelf life expires when newer and bigger operators come on the scene. There are a couple flat-screen TVs hanging on a wall behind the main bar, however he didn’t want Basic to be a sports bar with an appeal limited to baseball season.

“I’m the little guy in the corner who has a concept that I think people will like just as much, but in a different way,” he said.

His corner of the world is growing, however.

Soon he expects to roll out two more eateries, including a second Basic in Roseville in April and Urbn, a mini version of his pizzeria concept, on Main Street in Vista in March.

Meanwhile, he’s in talks with potential investors about opening additional locations for both in Northern California and Orange County.

Although he is seeking the help of an equity fund to open additional Urbn restaurants, he’s opening the first by himself, and a former manager and investor at the Tenth Avenue restaurant has become an investor in the Roseville Basic.


Tab To Open

The tab to open the East Village Basic, which has a capacity for 271 people in 5,000 square feet of space, was $1.3 million.

The Roseville location, which also has 5,000 square feet, is expected to cost about $800,000 to open, and Urbn, which will occupy a former restaurant site with 2,900 square feet, will run about $200,000.

Altogether they will employ about 70 people. The downtown restaurant has a staff of 30.

Like its predecessor, the Roseville Basic will have a full bar, but Urbn will serve only beer and wine.

Although he envisions opening 15 to 20 more restaurants in San Diego County, most will likely be Urbns.

“I feel like there are a lot of great deals out there,” Mangini said. “Pizza, beer and wine is not necessarily recession-proof, but it’s better than doing fine dining right now.”

If he’d listened to the opinions of passers-by while the first Basic was under construction, he might not be discussing any plans right now.

“People would poke their heads in and ask what we were going to be and when I told them a pizza restaurant they’d say, ‘You’re nuts.’

“So I began to get nervous and I called my old boss at CB5 (a restaurant consulting firm) and he said, ‘Jon, do pizza. Test your recipes before you open, and if you can’t do it better than anybody else you might as well do chicken wings. Always remember, great food is the key.’ ”

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