111 NE Starr St., Sublimity
Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m
Tuesday through Saturday,
and closed Sunday and Monday.
By Mary Owen
At Paneza Nellie, every breadstick comes with a blessing.
Sublimity’s newest eatery offers charm, good eats and a ministry that owner John Cates, 55, said he was called to by “the man upstairs.”
“We’ve been planning this for awhile,” he said of his decision to trade working as a builder, which he’s done for the past 15 years, for baking breadsticks and ministering to others. “Since we’ve opened, it’s been so busy, we’ve been overwhelmed. We’re just so pleased!”
All the Cates family is involved in the operation of the restaurant. Cates’ wife, Moira, helps out during the day and his son, Ryan, comes with his girlfriend to work on weekends. Chelsea, his daughter who lives in Bend, drops in when she can while his other daughters, Jessica Graika, runs the gift shop and Kristen brings her expertise from working in a wine and cheese café in Reno to the new eatery.
“That’s her specialty,” Cates said. “We plan to do a little wine tasting after the first of the year. We’re going to have a little fun with this.”
But Paneza Nellie is more than just “a little shop.” It’s a legacy, a ministry and a future for many of those who work there.
“It’s definitely not for the money,” said Cates, who had a similar business in his Starr Street home years ago. Cates believes opening the shop was a faith-based move. “God’s given me the talent, and this is it,” he said.
Cates has hired dozens of employees, many of whom work only one day a week, some of whom need a helping hand or a place to belong.
“I hired a 16-year-old whose family life was just horrible,” he said. “She told me she was glad to have a place to get away to, otherwise she would be on drugs or worse.”
Cates said people often tell him they feel a peace about the tiny eatery, housed in his garage. Some were literally blessed along with the restaurant during Fr. Irudayaraj Amalanathan’s recent visit.
“When he came to bless the restaurant, there was a group of gals sitting there,” Cates said of St. Boniface’s priest. “They all got the holy water as well.”
Whether dropping in for a slice of homemade pizza, a bowl of homemade soup, a specialty salad or one of Paneza Nellie’s famous stuffed breadsticks, customers find a little bit of “home,” Cates said.
Grandma Nellie Hyde is the inspiration behind the restaurant named after her and her special panzanella, a Tuscan salad that includes bread.
“She taught cooking for 42 years,” Cates explained. “She took all of her grandchildren and taught us to cook – and to love.”
A “very strong” Christian lady, Cates said Nellie Hyde’s kitchen always had something going on, from cooking lessons to charity work.
“It was her main focus,” he said. “Everybody knew Nellie.”
It’s the warmth and caring that came from Hyde’s Glendora, Calif., kitchen that Cates has tried to replicate in Sublimity, where he has lived for the past 30 years.
“We wanted to really do something similar in our home town and give back to our community,” said Cates, who plans to host fundraisers and help folks in other ways.
Cookbooks – about 1,000 of them for the perusing – and the aroma of fresh-baked bread helps define this new “kitchen.” Moira’s British background means tea lovers can get “a proper cuppa” instead of coffee, accompanied by a sticky bun or scone.
Internet access is available for hi-tech loungers, and for those who simply enjoy a place to hang out with friends and munch on the popular pepperoni-stuffed breadstick, Paneza Nellie’s is the place.
“We keep our breadsticks and pizza hot and ready to go, since we only have a few tables and chairs inside,” Cates said. “But next summer, we’ll have seating on the patio, a sort of sidewalk café.”