Montrio peaches and burrata

Montrio has expanded its medium-sized, shareable plates in recent years, with some creative flavor combinations like grilled peaches and burrata. 

After more than 30 years at the helm of restaurant group Downtown Dining, Tony Tollner is retiring, and selling his restaurant dynasty. (His plans now include motorcycle trips and hiking.)

Ken Donkersloot and Mona Calis of Carmel bought the three restaurants in the group, Montrio Bistro, Tarpy's Roadhouse and Rio Grill. They plan to keep the general managers and chefs at all three as they transition. At Montrio, that's Chef Justin Robarge and GM Kathy Solley; at Tarpy's, GM Debbie Edwards and Chef Gabby Arguilles; and at Rio Grill, GM Gabe de la Vega and Chef Eduardo Coronel.

"We strive to inspire healthier, more vibrant communities by connecting people to quality food prepared and served with honesty and integrity," Donkersloot said in a statement. "We accomplish this by attracting and retaining employees that fit our culture and share our principles and vision for the future. Putting our employees first sets the table for an unmatched dining experience, one that brings diners back time and again."

All three restaurants have been culinary centers on the Monterey Peninsula, regularly winning love from Weekly readers in our annual Best Of Readers Poll, and recognized for innovate cocktails, locally centered seasonal menus, and also a friendly, neighborhood vibe even while attracting tourists. 

“There’s a level of passion here that’s second to none," Robarge told the Weekly in 2018. "The longevity, continuity and consistency come from passion and communication, doing it as one team."

The deal was months in the making, and earlier this year, went south. Donkersloot and Calis' Blue Ocean Venture Holdings sued Tollner and Downtown Dining on Feb. 27 in Monterey County Superior Court, then Tollner sued them four days later, with both sides alleging misrepresentations and breach of contract over what was then a $4.7 million transaction, according to court records.

On May 21, they requested the suits be dismissed, just as this final deal was announced. The final sale price was not disclosed. 

All three restaurants have been closed during the shutdown. Tarpy's and Rio Grill are opening for curbside pickup only on Friday, June 5; Montrio will open for curbside pickup the week of June 15. All will have adapted menus for the takeout-only system. 

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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