Eyebrows raised when Judy Aspesi moved her popular downtown restaurant, Dewz, in September from the corner of I and 11th streets, across from the Gallo Center for the Arts, to the site of the just-closed 15-0-Five eatery on J Street.
After all, the Gallo-adjacent corner was seen as the "it" spot for performance-night dining. The proximity to the Stanislaus County Courthouse also provided a heavy weekday lunch crowd.
But a raise in rent was going to have a serious impact on business. And Aspesi was sure her regular customers would follow Dewz just a few blocks up.
Today, Aspesi is basking in the delicious glow of being right.
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"The best thing that ever happened to us was moving here," she said. "The place is a lot prettier. The restaurant itself increased business and we've completely increased our bar business."
The bar has been a particular delight for Aspesi, who is partner at Dewz with her son Scott Aspesi and executive chef Vincent Alvarado. The bar at the former location was snug, but the new space, with its contemporary and comfortable feel, is much larger and allows for more movement and more customers.
"We have a real bar now, so like by 5, 5:30, our bar is full of people drinking, having wine, eating appetizers," Aspesi said.
She said her only real worry in moving was the lunch crowd, but even that has proved to be a positive. Now instead of lunchtime diners who rush back to court, she finds customers have more time to linger over their midday meals.
The industrial-like interior of 15-0-Five has given way to inviting warm red tones. The entire space was redecorated, with fabric hung on the walls to improve the acoustics. Black tiles make for a striking bar. There are two dining areas, with one available for banquets. Al fresco dining also is an option.
Alvarado made a few changes to the menu, Aspesi said, making it "more upscale, but still very affordable." Still, certain favorites remain, like the New York steak with blue cheese and dramatic tableside creations for their Caesar salad and bananas Foster.
The changes and the continuation of the things Dewz has been known for have kept customers loyal. "I think we have such great food and great service, people just follow," Aspesi said.