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The Ranch House Cafe: A Familiar Gathering Place For Customers

The Moraga restaurant on the Bruzzone Ranch property has clientele that come in every day

The Ranch House Cafe in Moraga
The Ranch House Cafe in Moraga
You can say the Ranch House Cafe is the "Cheers" of Moraga.

For regular customers, it's the place where everybody knows their name and the waitress knows want you want to order.

"People come in here, they know each other and they talk to each other," said Lori Billecci, the former owner and now the manager of the restaurant.

Billecci estimates she has 200 regular customers. Some come once or twice a week. Others come in every day. Some of them sit in the same seat every time. Others order the same thing on every visit.

The restaurant sits on School Street in one of the red buildings that still populate the Bruzzone family ranch next to the Moraga Shopping Center.

Most of the buildings on the property, including the cafe, are at least 100 years old.

They were part of the old Moraga rancho. Russell Bruzzone, who died in 2001, bought some of that property in the 1960s. He developed the shopping center as well as other projects in the Lamorinda area.

Billecci grew up in Orinda, attending Miramonte High School.

She said the cafe was originally the cookhouse for the ranch hands when the property was a working ranch.

She remembers boarding her horses on the site when she was young. The cafe building was a restaurant called The Cookhouse.

When she was in high school, the building was a clothing and shoe store named Slick Chicks.

In the 1990s, it was used as business offices.

Back then, Billecci was the operator of the restaurant inside the bowling alley in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center.

In 1998, the year before the bowling alley closed, Billecci opened the Ranch House Cafe.

She owned the restaurant until 2009, when she decided she was spending too much time away from home.

"I was always here," she said.

So, Billecci sold the cafe to Stephen Bruzzone, the son of Russell Bruzzone. The new owner appointed Billecci as manager, kept the decor and operations the same and kept the restaurant's employees.

The restaurant's exterior and interior are a throwback to the cookhouse days.

It's still red and has the white fence outside with the opening for the front walkway.

Inside there is an old counter in the small lobby for folks who want to sit up front. There's the main dining area in the next room. A banquet room is on the other side. There's a picnic area out front and a patio out back.

The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. seven days a week. It's closed only three days a year -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

The breakfast menu is pretty standard with eggs and other dishes. The lunch menu has burgers and sandwiches along with salad, soup and traditional side dishes such as fries.

The restaurant is off the main road, but it's nestled next to the shopping center and the Lafayette-Moraga bike trail passes directly in front of it.

Besides the regulars, the cafe also draws customers from the trail users, the shopping center and St. Mary's College.

Billecci works Monday through Friday and still enjoys the job.

"I like the fact I know all my regulars," she said.

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