Walter Bebla is no stranger to the restaurant industry, having owned and managed several establishments in New York City since 1980. Still, nothing could have prepared him for opening his latest business endeavor in the middle of a pandemic.
After 10 months of hard work, Bebla opened the doors to Crostini Restaurant on July 1 — the same day California once again restricted indoor dining.

“As soon as we opened, we got cut off,” he said. “I said, ‘Oh my God. What a bummer.’ I spent so much money and bought so much stuff, but we have to deal with it just like everybody else who’s hurting right now.”

While Crostini Restaurant is going through trials similar to other eating establishments during the coronavirus pandemic, their menu is anything but. The Italian-American restaurant features an eclectic menu of dishes, from chicken parmigiana and eggplant Milanese to quesadillas and hot wings. There are a wide variety of breakfast options as well, and lunchtime diners can indulge in a Crostini sandwich, which is an open-faced panini.

While Bebla considers his made-from-scratch sauces to be the restaurant’s specialty, the location is also unique in that it offers a full-service Peet’s Coffee bar. On the other side of the restaurant, a bar stocked with alcohol ensures that patrons will be pleased no matter what their preferred drink is.

“Whether someone wants a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, we can accommodate that,” Bebla said.

A self-proclaimed “jack of all trades but master of none,” Bebla also built the restaurant’s bar himself, in addition to the countertops filled with fresh-baked desserts and cabinetry throughout the space. He hopes that one day, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, students will come in to utilize the free Wi-Fi while they do their homework and that Crostini Restaurant serves as a gathering place for the community like the show “Cheers.”

After quite a few years away from the restaurant business, he’s glad to be back in the game since moving to Turlock about a decade ago.

“This morning I was telling myself, ‘You are absolutely crazy to go back into it,’ but I’m at the age where I either retire and sit around doing nothing or have a place I can come in and socialize,” Bebla said. “I want Turlock to come to my place and treat it like their own place. This was built for the community, not for me. I want people to walk in and become family.”