By Jon Lewis
story: Jon Lewis photos: Bret & Matt Christensen
MOUNT SHASTA'S PIEMONT RESTAURANT From the outside, the Piemont doesn’t look like much – just a straightforward white building with a no-frills neon sign advertising Italian dinners. Step inside, however, and you’re instantly enveloped in the unmistakable warmth of family.
That sense of family is by design, tradition and ownership. It’s in the way meals are prepared and served, and it’s on the minds of the legion of faithful customers who have made the Mount Shasta restaurant a part of their lives since it opened in 1940.
The Piemont, it seems, is as much a North State destination as the iconic mountain that towers northeast of the city. “People plan their trips to make sure they’re here for dinner,” owner Troy Gerding says of the mountain climbers, golfers, fishermen and other out-of-town visitors who can’t wait to dig into a plate of ravioli, spaghetti, fried chicken, steak or roast beef.
The restaurant has been in the same family for five generations and very little has changed over the years. Gerding plans to maintain that sense of stability—partly out of tradition and also because he knows he’ll get an earful from his customers if he mixes things up.
“We get customers all the time who say, ‘We were brought here as kids, and now we’re bringing our kids—and thanks for not changing,’” Gerding says. “We have some customers who request certain waitresses. We definitely think of it as family.”
Bobbi McKenzie, who has been waiting on tables at the Piemont for more than 20 years, says she loves seeing the regular customers and meeting new ones who have just discovered Mount Shasta, including international travelers. “There were some people who saved all their life to come out from Australia to see the mountain—I love that kind of stuff.”
McKenzie, another Mount Shasta native, says she’s reminded of the restaurant’s popularity on a nightly basis. “There are golfers and fishermen, the first place they stop is here, even before they get a hotel. That always blows me away. And then there were the people from Las Vegas who got up at 4 am to make sure they got here before we closed… and then there was the couple celebrating their 52nd anniversary, and they wanted to be seated in the same booth where they got engaged… and every single birthday of every local ends up here.
“Just the other day, there was a brand new couple, I had never seen them before and it was their first time here. They said the food is awesome but what they really loved is the atmosphere,” McKenzie says.
“People enjoy how we all work together. It just kind of flows because we help each other out,” says Judy Gerding-Cottini, who owned the Piemont from 1992 to January 2009, when she sold it to her son.
Gerding-Cottini’s grandmother, Josephine Regis, established the Piemont in 1940 after relocating to Mount Shasta from the Piemonte region of Italy. It was originally called the Piemonte but Gerding-Cottini says the ‘e’ was removed sometime in the 1940s to give the establishment a more American spelling. (The Piemonte region, located in Northern Italy near the Swiss border, draws its name from the Latin term for “at the foot of the mountains,” an apt name given the proximity of Mt. Shasta.)
The Piemont was originally a hotel with a dining room, dance hall and bar that catered to lumber mill workers and baseball players visiting from McCloud, Weed, Yreka and other North State mill towns. Josephine and Dominic Regis sold the business to their oldest daughter, Annie, who ran it for 28 years with her husband, Victor Favero, before handing it off to her daughter, Josie.
Josie (Gerding-Cottini’s aunt) and John Baldini ran the Piemont for 28 years before selling to Gerding-Cottini. Troy Gerding started working at the restaurant in 1977, clearing tables and washing dishes. When he was older, he managed the Piemont’s bar for a couple of years.
When Gerding-Cottini was ready to sell, Gerding sold his two Rockhouse Gym businesses in Mount Shasta and Lake Shastina to come up with the down payment and completed the transaction in January 2009.
“The main thing is I wanted to keep it in the family,” Gerding says.
His mom still works at the restaurant and continues to make raviolis by the hundreds, using her aunt’s recipe of beef, pork and spinach. Meatballs, minestrone soup and the meat, pesto and Alfredo sauces also are made fresh at the Piemont.
Naturally, all meals at the Piemont—which include soup, relish plate, salad, ice cream and coffee—are served family style. Few, if any, walk away hungry.
Piemont Restaurant • 1200 S. Mt. Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta (530) 926-2402 5:00 to 9:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday; 1:00 to 9:00 pm Sunday; closed Mondays.