Lucky Penny Opens Its Vault on Friday, August 9, 2013

Pedigree Team of Dan Russo, Jason Paluska and Nick Flores Create an Artisan Take-Out Restaurant in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone”

Lucky Penny, arguably the most talked about new structure in Santa Barbara, will open to the public on Friday, August 9, 2013. This free standing take-out restaurant, with a façade completely tiled in real copper pennies that shimmer from the Central Coast sunshine, is one third of the triumvirate that includes The Lark and Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant in the center of the Funk Zone and home to the Urban Wine Trail. Along with its sister businesses, Lucky Penny joins the commitment of sourcing directly from the surrounding areas while welcoming visitors to rediscover the magic of Santa Barbara and experience this revitalized section of the city.

Headed by General Manager Dan Russo and the culinary team of Executive Chef Jason Paluska and Executive Sous Chef Nick Flores, Lucky Penny will offer artisan pizzas from a hand built wood-burning oven, fresh baked goods and carefully crafted coffee drinks prepared from La Colombe coffee, the acclaimed Philadelphia company that sources earth conscious farm-direct coffees. Guests may order from indoors or a walk up window for casual take out snacks that can be enjoyed on the property’s charming rustic patio, one of the nearby wine tasting rooms, packed for the beach or enjoyed at home. Other beverages include Lucky Penny red and white house wines blended from local Santa Barbara Country fruit.

Lucky Penny is located on the grounds of the historic former Santa Barbara Fish Market owned by the Castagnola family, who originally built the 10,000 square foot building in the 1920’s as a commercial fish processing plant. In this once thriving fish market space within walking distance to the Santa Barbara train station and Stearns Wharf, the restaurant is destined to become the leading landmark for locals and visitors.

It took the team six months to hand-glue each penny onto woven mats backing before the tiles could be affixed to the building. Local high school volunteers from the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Future Leaders of America and Youth Interactive made the tiles in exchange for donations to their respective organizations, raising $1K for each charity. A social media competition is currently under way, inviting people to guess the exact number of pennies on the exterior for a chance to win the Grand Prize of having an eponymously named pizza plus a hosted pizza party for ten. Lucky Penny will continue its mission to give back to the community with the Lucky Penny Foundation, serving the needs of the Santa Barbara area.

Inside, the wood-fired oven was custom built by hand by Giuseppe Crisa, a trained pizzaiolo from Sicily, Italy. At a peak temperature of 1000 degrees, the oven can cook a pizza in less than a minute. Like its sibling businesses, The Lark and Les Marchands, Lucky Penny makes use of repurposed materials in whimsical fashion. The hanging train bell dates from 1886 and was used to announce meal times on board. Wooden crates, perched on the south wall, were previously used to dry fruit and salvaged from an orchard in Napa, California. The copper trim on the exterior, slowly self-burnishing to a turquoise patina, originated form an all-girls school in France. The retro modern décor pays homage to the historic value of the past while inviting the public to enjoy the Funk Zone and the fascinating cultural mix found within its boundaries.

Longtime Santa Barbara resident and Managing Partner Sherry Villanueva decided to put in her two cents when she saw a destiny for the Funk Zone. She began planting the seeds of an idea to transform an old warehouse one block from State Street into a gathering place for locals and visitors to eat, drink, learn and share, where they could celebrate and honor the past, present and future. Capitalizing on her experience as founder and principal of Twist Worldwide, successful boutique marketing and branding agency, she parlayed her vision for this neighborhood’s potential by cultivating her local relationships and recruiting the key talent that could translate her imaginative concepts into reality.

Designer Doug Washington, owner of four successful restaurants in San Francisco and Portland, and a 2012 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalist for Restaurateur of the Year, teamed with Villanueva, intending to create an original space with sophistication and style while imbuing the funkiness, earthiness and wit of its surroundings. Nearly every item in Washington’s design comes with history or a story, adding to the overall sense of discovery with each visit.

Dan Russo is a seasoned professional with more than 19 years experience in the hospitality industry. Russo’s portfolio includes recent work as General Manager of RN74, Michael Mina’s highly regarded urban wine bar and restaurant in San Francisco and the James Beard nominated The Girl & the Goat, Stephanie Izzard’s acclaimed Chicago restaurant. He is joined by Executive Chef Jason Paluska, a Texas native whose work history includes positions at Town Hall and Salt House in San Francisco. Paluska most recently he served as Sous Chef at Michael Mina’s RN74 and is eager to express his skills and creativity at The Lark and Lucky Penny as his first opportunity in an executive chef position. The Lucky Penny menu is an expression of Paluska’s design for casual food defined by upscale quality, local ingredients, approachable pricing and without pretense. At Paluska’s side is Nick Flores, trained in the California Culinary Academy, who is a master in pastry, also an alumnus of RN74 and who will be responsible for the baking of pastries at Lucky Penny. The beverage program of wine and beers is designed by award-winning Sommelier Eric Railsfield, managing partner of the adjacent Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, also debuting this month.

Lucky Penny will offer numerous baked goods like Poppy Seed Orange Muffins, Maple Pecan Scones, Bakers Table Croissant and Bacon Gruyere Scones. Breakfast on Milpas – Fingerling Potatoes, Mexican Chorizo, Sunny Side Up Egg, Spicy Tomatillo Marinara, Cotija and Cilantro are sure to be breakfast favorites. An array of fruit and vegetable market salads will capitalize on local, seasonal produce. The Lucky Margherita Pizza with Di Stefano Burrata, Heirloom and San Marzano Tomato, Smoked Mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan and Rosemary or Ode to Dan Russo Pork and Fennel Seed Meatballs, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Calabrian Chile, Smoked Mozzarella and Arugula can be had in a New York minute. Seasonal house made dessert samples include Rori’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, Brown Butter Stone Fruit Cakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fleur De Sel.

Operating hours for Lucky Penny will be 7:00 am – 9:00 pm and the lunch menu will be available from 11 am, daily. Ample outdoor seating and access to the adjacent properties in this contemporary casual environment make Lucky Penny a perfect destination where people and time can stand still for a moment and get more than a penny for their thoughts.

Please visit Lucky Penny on the Web at

For reservations, the public can call:

Lucky Penny | 127 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, California 93101 | Phone 805.284.0358

or visit

Become a fan of Lucky Penny on Facebook at

Follow Lucky Penny on Twitter at @luckypennysb


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