Family Behind Downtown Santa Rosa Sports Bar to Open New Family-Friendly Spot

Ricky’s Eastbound is shutting its doors at end of month and will be replaced by an eatery run by Ausiello family.

Ricky’s Eastbound restaurant and cocktail bar in Santa Rosa’s Skyhawk Village will close at the end of September to make way for a new family-friendly eatery from the owners of Ausiello’s Fifth Street Bar and Grill.

The Ausiello family’s new project was rumored for months, but Leeanna Kane, the daughter of Ausiello’s founder Armand Ausiello, confirmed Saturday that Ausiello’s Homeslice will be replacing the Mountain Hawk Drive restaurant owned by Rick and Linn Bruno.

“We’ve lived in Rincon Valley for a long time, and we knew we needed a family restaurant around here,” said Kane, who grew up in east Santa Rosa with her brother, Mario. The brother-and-sister team joined their parents in operating the downtown sports bar and will all co-own the new restaurant Kane describes as “family-friendly and cocktail forward.” They hope to open later this year.

It was a matter of good timing for the Ausiellos when Ricky’s went up for sale.

“We had been looking to expand our business for almost eight years, and we’ve been very particular about the location. We know about restaurants and bars and the high turnover,” she said. Kane was confident a restaurant with familiar favorites — wood-fired pizzas, burgers, hearty salads and a happy hour — would be well-received by locals.

The name has a special meaning to Kane, capturing the neighborhood vibe and as a metaphor for growing up nearby.

“This is our homeslice,” Kane said of the slang word meaning “little slice of home” or something dear to your heart. Chef Will Suman, formerly of Bistro 29 and Rosso, will helm the kitchen.

Chef Rick Bruno, who also owned Bruno’s on Fourth (which closed in 2020) and a food truck, said he’s welcoming a breather after more than 40 years of cooking and is ready to start the next chapter, though he plans to continue catering for the next several months.

“After that, I’m going to take a harder look at what I want to do. Getting to be 60 changes your life,” he said, as he prepared to open Ricky’s on Saturday morning.

“We took on a challenge that most people wouldn’t have attempted,” said the longtime chef of the Skyhawk Village location. Several businesses came and went from the site in rapid succession before the Brunos took over the space.

“We made this a next-level restaurant, and we were able to sell it. I never got to sell Bruno’s,” he said. The small cafe he leased in the McDonald Avenue neighborhood went up for sale in 2020 at a price he couldn’t make work at the 38-seat cafe. It stood idle for many years but is now a marijuana dispensary.

During the 2019 wildfires, Bruno operated a food truck in the parking lot at Skyhawk Village, providing a gathering spot and haven for neighbors, he said. During the pandemic, Ricky’s pivoted to a takeout model that sustained the restaurant for over a year.

Bruno’s wife, Linn, has headed the Warm Puppy Cafe at Snoopy’s Home Ice for several years, and he hopes to help her occasionally. “If they’ll have me,” he added.

“I’ve met a lot of great people in this industry and this town, and I thank them all.”