by Kirby Lindsay, posted 17 November 2014
Brad Inserra has become a fixture of Upper Fremont/Top Of The Universe. His restaurant, Brad’s Swingside Café, is the place in the little house – that charming place you’ve seen, passed and, hopefully, stopped in for a delicious meal many times since it began on September 29, 1990.
This is the time to return, again and again, to take what could be your last chance to taste fresh, creative Sicilian deliciousness at a Fremont neighborhood treasure.
In March 2015, Brad’s Swingside Café will close. After 24 years, Inserra decided, “I had to make a change. I’m not getting any younger. I can’t emotionally put up with it anymore.”
Inserra enjoys the food, matching his creativity to the ingredients available, and he chose the people as the part of the restaurant he’ll miss the most, “for sure!” What he can’t take anymore is the on-going battle to stay out of debt – the taxes and insurance bills clean out his bank account twice a year – and the merry-go-round of paying off debt, then encountering another unplanned expense that creates more. “I want to get out before more damage occurs,” Inserra recently explained, “the recession hit hard, and the restaurant recovered, but not enough.”
“I’ve held on to this place far longer than I should have from a smart financial perspective,” Inserra observed. He loves the restaurant he’s built, with its reputation built on bedrock for quality dining, but the money has been a struggle he can’t tolerate any longer. With a daughter to raise (his grown son is a veterinarian,) Inserra wants to be able to give her his attention rather than forever stressing over payments yet to be made.
For the Future
“I got into some debt here,” Inserra explained. Earlier this year, realizing that a hard money loan he’d taken out would need to be paid, he decided to give up his greatest asset – the restaurant building. He bought it after he took over Swingside, and he now lives in the back.
“I was getting offers left and right,” Inserra reported, “I got about three a week in the mail.” Yet, when he decided to sell, he called someone he knew and trusted for a referral to a quality developer that he could work with and feel good about.
He interviewed Graham Black, of G Projects, about what could be done with the property. G Projects builds green, modern projects, intended to make the city a better place to live, work and play. Black has plans for a four-unit townhome building with one commercial space and, possibly, a live/work space for musicians. “I have right of first refusal for creating a music/food venue in the commercial space,” Inserra said, but he wants to wait to decide if he will come back and try again.
“I have a standing job offer in Sicily,” Inserra mused, when asked what he wants to do next. First thing, he needs to find a new, stable place to live – for himself and his daughter. “I’ll miss the community here,” he said, and opening another place does tempt him, but not if it means another ride on the debt merry-go-round.
A Long, Slow Celebration
Over its long history, Swingside Café has been dependable as the restaurant to go to for a high-quality, quiet meal among discerning adults. Inserra knows his is a more mature (or older) audience – people who care less about being seen or being hip – that want, “fine food without pretention.”
As for the official closing, “we’re not going to be throwing some big party,” Inserra stated firmly. Currently, the sale of the property is scheduled to close on February 17th, Inserra’s birthday, and he plans a, “stretch of live music,” being performed in the small restaurant at the end of January and the beginning of February. Organized by Mike Bisio, Inserra declared it as, “the celebratory part.”
He doesn’t want the last-minute fire-sale fiesta, like we did for the farewell for long-time neighbor The Buckaroo Tavern, but Inserra will offer an opportunity for closure that the customers of another popular neighbor, Paseo, didn’t get.
Inserra has planned a winter of fantastic feasts at Swingside, for what may be the last time. He’s working to have Swingside open for dinner nearly every night (Mondays are a sometime thing,) and through December (from 11:30a – 3p) diners can get an inexpensive, casual lunch of dishes made with fresh ingredients purchased specifically for that day’s menu.
Also, for the holiday season, Inserra has scheduled three nights of live music:
- December 7th – Ruthie Dornfeld and Schulamit Kleinerman
- December 11th – Claude Ginsberg and Dave Bartley
- December 13th – John Reischman and John Miller
Also, Inserra plans to offer his traditional holiday seatings – for Christmas Eve, from 5p – 9p, he will be serving the Sicilian Seven Sacred Seafood Dishes. (R.S.V.P.s accepted and encouraged – at .) For New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, Swingside will have three separate seatings for those looking to celebrate in real style.
Saying good-bye can be intensely painful, particularly to a piece of our community history. Inserra has kindly given us all a chance to take part in processing our farewell, while dining on our favorite Swingside dishes and taking in the quaint and charming surroundings he’s created over 24 years.
Stop by, say good-bye, and make this final winter at Swingside Café count!
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©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.