At Villa san Marcel Restaurant in Minden, owner Sheri Asay enlisted her son, Marcel Choux, as chef and namesake of the rustic Italian restaurant. Her niece and nephew are cooks, and her 13-year-old granddaughter is a waitress.
"My son has a gift for cooking," Asay said. "We opened the restaurant because we wanted him to have a place where his daughter Cethe could work with him."
Asay had been looking for a restaurant after Choux left Barone & Reed Food Co.
"This opportunity presented itself to open the restaurant," she said. "We had a smooth transition, and the community seems to support us 100 percent."
Villa san Marcel features seafood, steak and traditional pasta dishes and a portabella mushroom lasagna. Choux describes the restaurant as "upscale casual."
"It's a family restaurant rather than fine dining, a family atmosphere, an Italian-inspired restaurant," Choux said. We use portabella mushrooms instead of pasta in the lasagna. We focus on food from small regions in Italy, peasant-style food.
"It's not a spaghetti-and-meatballs, red-and-white-tablecloth sort of place."
Nightly dinner specials are on the wall menu. Villa san Marcel has wine and a full bar. Lunch includes panini and sandwiches, pasta and salads.
"We have everything from gelato, to gnocchi, to traditional chicken marsala," Choux said.
He designed the interior of the restaurant, which features area artists' work.
He has a talent for food display and wanted to be a food photographer, but ended up studying cooking at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
He cooked at Anthony's on the Pier in Seattle before he worked at Barone & Reed.
Sous Chef Christian Gemmel said Choux gave him his first cooking job when he was 15 years old.
"It's common for chefs to be the last ones to eat, to sit down and enjoy," Gemmel said. "The passion of food is putting a smile on someone's face - it's a service."
If you go
WHAT: Villa san Marcel
Where: 1799 B Ironwood Drive, Minden
When: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays; dinner: 5 p.m. until closing Monday through Saturday. A special Mother's Day Brunch is Sunday.