Three Dynamic Women From the Pasadena Food Scene

This trio has not only given back to the community by opening, operating, and cooking in top restaurants, but they also have their hands in many charitable organizations around town.

Marie Petulla of Union

Petulla is the co-owner and visionary behind Pasadena’s beloved, award-winning Northern Italian restaurant Union, Grand Central Market’s Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market, Red Jungle, and her latest venture, U Street Pizza, which features New York–style pizza made with high-quality, market-driven ingredients from across California.

This new concept is nostalgic for Petulla, who first opened Union in 2013. “The focus of the restaurant has always been a commitment to the community of Pasadena, who have been so supportive,” she says. “We have done our best to source locally and collaborate with farmers and producers.” Those collaborators have included Pasadena Community Gardens and John Muir High School garden. Petulla and her team continue to support Elizabeth House, which works with at-risk women and children, and Planned Parenthood. “During the pandemic, we worked with the community to provide meals for frontline workers at Huntington Hospital and our local firehouse.”

Yari Gonzalez of Maestro Restaurant

Gonzalez had a hand in conceiving Maestro’s original menu and is back in the kitchen creating unique new modern Mexican dishes and incorporating her family story and inspirations from her travels. “I’m excited to give our customers a great experience and teach them not only about the dishes but the reason they were chosen and where all the ingredients come from—and put my soul into it,” she says.

Along with Maestro, Gonzalez has chosen to help the charity No Us Without You LA, a nonprofit whose mission is to support the backbone of the hospitality industry in Greater Los Angeles by providing food security for undocumented immigrants. “When I first heard about No Us Without You, what they represent and their vision, it simply just moved me,” says Gonzalez. “I instantly wanted to help and be part of the cause. They feed over 1,300 undocumented backhouse employees for the hospitality industry, and I know what it is to work with amazing people that never get recognized.”

Linda Grace of Café San Marino

A neighborhood favorite gathering spot for great coffee and a harissa tuna sandwich with a cult following, Grace’s Café San Marino has become a space where women activate their passions in an encouraging and inviting setting. To that end, the café has built a supportive community by hosting numerous local charities and clubs, small business meetings, and other gatherings. “We’ve raised money for women on the cancer journey and for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and supported local organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says.

Grace also works with Ronald McDonald House and the National Charity League, among others. Her team recently fed over 600 people from Valentine Elementary School and made more than 1,000 meals for the Pasadena Civic Ballet—and she does all this without a kitchen. Grace works off two burners, two convection ovens, and a panini press. “We do this with a lot of love, magic, and a great crew,” she says.

The café is in the midst of expanding next door or possibly to another location with a kitchen, but they will never leave San Marino where Grace has built her following.

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