Toma’s new owners Sam Grant, left, and Julian Sanders | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

The essential news is that there is no news — while Tom and Vicki Dolan have sold their beloved Toma Restaurant & Bar, new owners Sam Grant and Julian Sanders insist, “We’re keeping Toma [as] Toma, and then we will build from there.” That means the Foodie Award-winning spot will still be serving up those tuna cones and fresh squid ink pasta.

Succulent planter on Toma’s exterior | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Both Grant and Sanders realize, though, that Toma is more than its menu. “The place has such great bones, and its history means so much,” Sanders explains. “There are regulars who had their rehearsal dinner here thirty years ago [when the building housed Emilio’s] and they still come in excited about carrying the tradition on.”

Grant and Sanders have been picking up on the ins and outs of those traditions since December, excited to learn directly from the Dolans as they waited for escrow to close. “We know it’s all about building relationships,” Grant stresses. “What table does one group like, what are their favorite drinks. We’re lucky that most of the staff already does that so well.”

The new owners are certainly not new to the hospitality industry. Sanders ran the delightful Café Ana with his wife Katherine and then worked as a server/bartender at Caruso’s; Grant comes from the wide-ranging TS Restaurants group, working at Jake’s in Del Mar, Sunnyside on Lake Tahoe, and Leilani’s in Maui. A mutual friend, retired TS Restaurants CEO Bill Parsons, brought the two of them together when he heard that the Dolans were looking to retire. “Between them, they have it covered,” is how Tom Dolan sees it. “I really like these guys.”

Change, when it comes, will be embellishments. Tom Dolan was well-known for his scouting trips to Italy to add to Toma’s wine offerings, and the new team hopes to build off what he began. “We want to add more local wines and wines from more regions in Europe,” Sanders says. “We might do some wine dinners with winemakers. The food here works so well with wine.”

Toma Restaurant and Bar | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Grant is eyeing some physical improvements for the older Cabrillo Boulevard building. “Maybe booths along the walls, some new lighting in the bar,” he says. “We want to make things better for our staff, too.” Both are also hoping to upgrade the COVID-era parklet to get even more out of their harborside location. Sanders points out the parklet also allows dog-owners to dine with their pooches.

Given both Grant and Sanders have young families, they also want to keep Toma community and family focused. They talk of strengthening and expanding already existing connections to local farmers, fishers, and foragers. They suggest we might see more specials from Chef Gregorio Bonilla. But we also will see a table or two held from reservations for regulars to walk in, as the Dolans told them 60 percent of the business was local.

Tom Dolan, while relishing the thought of being able to take a three-month Italian sojourn and not just a two-week busman’s holiday, also admits, “I’ll be honest, it’s bittersweet. We have been on such an eventful ride for ten years. The accolades we got from the locals; it’s so special. I’ve known the restaurant business my whole life, so it will be tough for me to get up in the morning and not think, ‘What do I have to do at the restaurant today?’”

And while Grant and Sanders are “100 percent focused on Toma,” they also suggest this could be just the beginning of a wonderful business friendship. Sanders says, “If another opportunity arises with the experience we build here, we’d love to expand.”

Toma Restaurant & Bar, 324 W. Cabrillo Blvd., (805) 962-0777,


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