La Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s annual Taste of La Mesa reaches beyond city limits in growth
Temperatures were warm and sunny, as was the conviviality of attendees feasting on small plates of delicious East County fare, all while networking at the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s Eighth Annual Taste of La Mesa. Staged at the La Mesa Community Center during the evening of Monday, June 6, the three-hour event was designed to showcase local eateries and dining establishments, with more than 20 serving up samplers of their featured menu items. Other businesses were there in force too, both to support their hospitality sector counterparts and to highlight a “taste” of how their endeavors contribute to making La Mesa a jewel of the hills among East County’s cities.
Mary England, president and CEO of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, summarized the evening as the festivities were wrapping up, “This is a great event experience. Everyone’s happy. We’ve signed up four or five new Chamber members.” She described how the event has developed over eight years. “There are more VIP ticketholders this year. People love the extra hour to be here. And we have added nearby restaurants and businesses just outside La Mesa. Cash registers do not know zip codes.” England noted, “This event is all about networking, and this is a testament to relationships.”
Gerardo Ortiz concurred. As chef and owner at Nonno’s Ristorante Italiano, he spoke of the opportunities the Taste of La Mesa offers. “This is always great,” Ortiz explained. “We can socialize in a friendly setting. We can swap ideas with others who make great food, and we can present what we serve to people.” Nonno’s takes as its watchword, “Serving fine Italian food since 1998,” and has five employees on its staff. Ortiz said that Nonno’s is in the business of “making Italian food and sauces from scratch.” His restaurant was one of four wine sponsors for the evening event, pouring from bottles chosen to complement Nonno’s menu choices. Ortiz further mentioned that his restaurant will soon expand its reach, and within about a month will partner with Amazon for deliveries.
Wandering diners could select samplers from the variety that La Mesa dining places serve. Options for graze dining included mini-burgers grilled by The Hills Local Pub, Kilkenny Salad dished up by Hooleys Irish Pub, crab cakes from the Brigantine, Mediterranean chicken salad from Luna Grill, and chicken wings, bread sticks and salad plated by O’s American Kitchen. Among dessert choices were chocolate-dipped fruit from Edible Arrangements and small slices from Tiramisu Trattoria. Caterers and food delivery services were represented by Sycuan Casino, Continental Catering, Farm Fresh to You, and Valley Farm Market.
Jason Rammelsberg of Riviera Supper Club discussed the benefits for his family’s business from participating in the Taste of La Mesa. “This is a good event, and this helps get our name out there to people.” Sampler offerings from the Riviera included sliders and miniature slices of the wickedly tempting salty-sweet bacon chocolate cake. “This gets people into our restaurant, and they know what to expect when they arrive,” Rammelsberg continued. He wanted interested potential customers to be alerted that the Riviera is featuring new bands for entertainment and has plans for Tiki Bar Saturdays on the patio this summer.
Financial firms and community health, fitness and personal service businesses attended the festivities to advertise their work in La Mesa. LegalShield provided tips on how to avoid identity theft. Cynthia (“Cindy”) MacNaughton, branch manager of GEM Mortgage, was there as a new member of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband, Neil, working as loan consultant, opened their La Mesa office in February. They reside in Alpine, and they joined the Chamber last month. Their business is a full-service lender, and they offer potential homebuyers multiple paths of assistance toward home ownership. “We love small communities,” Cindy MacNaughton said. “We love the small-town environment and the personal contact. You do business with people you meet shopping at the grocery store.” The MacNaughtons and their six-employee staffers are currently available to assist with prequalifying potential purchasers for a downtown La Mesa Village development of 12 new townhomes between Palm Avenue and Spring Street, which will open by the end of the year. “We are the honest people,” MacNaughton stated, noting that their firm had not been involved with the sorts of questionable loans that sent the nation’s mortgage and property ownership economic sector into its recent financial downfall. “We will help you, and we will do a great job,” MacNaughton concluded.
Another non-restaurateur at the festivities was Chris Stanley, there as office manager for H&N Construction Company, but more so there as representative of “Crème De La Crème Sponsor” Virginia Napierskie. Stanley began working for the Napierskie family enterprise in 1984. “I feel very fortunate to have found this family business and this job,” Stanley said. “I have been treated like family there, and I am included in everything.” Stanley’s work role has changed over the years as the Napierskies retired into real estate ownership, and she currently serves as property manager for the family properties, from a Jackson Hole lodge to condos in Maui and Palm Desert. Stanley lives in El Cajon, and she now sometimes stands in for Virginia Napierskie at charitable events. Stanley observed that Napierskie is 91, still very active and involved. “We are trying more lately to go to events and learn about the community,” Stanley went on. “And we all like Mary England very much.”
More information about England’s business-support organization, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, can be found by phoning (619) 465-7700 or online at www.lamesachamber.com.