A Colony Dining Experience Featuring La Donna’s Restuarant and Cocktail Lounge
A gem in the center of downtown Atascadero, LaDonna’s was our unanimous choice for this month’s edition of “entrée.” Under the care of LaDonna White and Aaron Ezzell, this intimate restaurant with elegant place settings has quickly been established as a local favorite. We invited Anna Pecharich, Owner of Anna & Mom, and Chairperson of the Atascadero Business Improvement District to share a meal with us.
As hosts, LaDonna and Aaron are friendly, warm, attentive and genuine. And there is no escaping the fact that they are both extremely hard workers, putting their hearts into every aspect of the restaurant.
“I just love feeding people,” LaDonna said. “You know when you cook a holiday meal for family and take special care of them? That’s what I do here at the restaurant. Every ingredient, every thought, every dish, everything I do is to make people who visit here happy.”
Nearly all food items are sourced locally including meat from J&R Natural Meats in Templeton, breads from Back Porch Bakery and Edna’s Bakery, and fresh produce from farmers’ markets. Guests are encouraged to call a few days ahead if they have special requests or food restrictions to allow LaDonna and Aaron time to shop.
“Everything LaDonna prepares is fresh; we have no freezer, no fryer,” Aaron said. “We accommodate many food lifestyles — vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian. With advance reservations, we are able to put together special dishes whether for one guest or a group.”
We gathered at a lovely window table as LaDonna and Aaron served us cocktails, wine, and bountiful portions of tasty food.
We started with Bruschetta, Napoleans, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Garden Greens with LaDonna’s famous homemade dressing.
Anna’s Favorite: Napoleans — fresh red and yellow beets, sliced and layered with goat cheese.
“Each dish was like a special work of art from a new gallery. I was particularly impressed with the Napoleans. The locally sourced heirloom beets were full of color and flavor. They were magically paired with the creamiest goat cheese that was fresh and mild with just a touch of sweetness — perfection!”
Hayley’s Favorite: Gourmet Flatbread — topped with mozzarella cheese, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, basil, and a balsamic reduction.
“LaDonna’s gourmet flatbread is just that — gourmet! With the fresh roasted veggies, the homemade tomato sauce and the sweet glaze roasted on the crust, this is absolutely divine!”
Next, we shared a Crepe, Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, Gourmet Flatbread and a Mozzarella-Stuffed Angus Sirloin & Italian
Meagan’s Favorite: Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatball — ground sirloin and Italian sausage from J&R Meats, mozzarella cheese, housemade marinara sauce and rustic bread from Edna’s Bakery.
“Wow — this meatball, the most ordered item on the menu, is the size of a softball! The flavors of the fresh meat, stuffed with mozzarella, sitting in a boat of house-made marinara with hand-picked tomatoes is
Nic’s Favorite: Crepe — with artichoke hearts and mushrooms, an Italian version with Bechamel Sauce and fresh basil.
“The creamy sauce that gently dressed the artichokes and mushroom was delicious. Everything blended together well, with the crepe and vegetables folded in a layered blend of delectable flavors and textures that could serve as an individual entrée or be shared with a date.”
Topping off the evening, we enjoyed individual portions of Pot De Crème — a classic rich, chocolatey, creamy French dessert garnished with heavy cream and a custard base — and the Banana Toffee Bourbon Cake — an original creation that tastes even better than it sounds.
Both desserts were simply amazing; additional desserts are available. It was too difficult for us to choose a favorite but we all agreed — everyone should save room for dessert at LaDonna’s!
A single mom to Josh and Victoria — Josh helps out as a server — LaDonna also works as a financial advisor at State Farm just down the street. When she met Aaron, it was a match both on the personal and culinary level. When they set out to open their own restaurant, they completely renovated the site and customized it to their needs.
A self-titled cocktail connoisseur, Aaron is creative and artistic, and takes pride in creating custom drinks while also helping with other aspects of the restaurant.
“I make cocktails as beautiful and tasty as possible and I enjoy seeing our guests’ reactions,” he said. “With everything we do, LaDonna and I believe presentation makes a big difference on how one perceives the flavors, whether it’s the dish or the glass it’s served in. We have this unique ebb and flow between us — we do every single aspect of this restaurants ourselves and we work so well together.”
LaDonna adds, “At the end of the day, I just love bringing pieces of joy to our guests’ table and I want them to feel like family. I think that’s the mom side of me; yes, I have the credential and I am trained, but when I am serving meals, it’s like I am serving my kids. I want to make someone’s day better by cooking them something good to eat. If I can do that,
my job is complete.”
Stop by and say hi to LaDonna and Aaron at LaDonna’s, located at 6195 El Camino Real in Atascadero, at the corner of Entrada, and tell them you saw their story in Colony Magazine!
For hours and menu, see ladonnasrestaurant.com or call 805-464-2124. Reservations are strongly recommended.
THE SIDE DISH
Sharing a meal at LaDonna’s in Atascadero, I caught up with Anna Pecharich of Anna & Mom, and Chairperson of the Atascadero Business Improvement District. We were joined by PASO Magazine Publishers Nic and Hayley Mattson.
“Our goal with the business district is to establish downtown Atascadero as a destination for shopping and more and bring attention to the mix of businesses offering their goods, food, drink, entertainment, art, and services,” Anna said. “We want to get to know our customers and refer customers to one another; we all strive to support one another.”
Originally a more casual organization, according to Anna, with business owners gathering for “Coffee at the Carlton,” serious changes started happening and the organization became official once a business development fee was reinstituted.
“We met with the Chamber, the Economic Foundation and others and ultimately formed a committee to figure out how to move forward with our goal to make immediate changes in a short amount of time,” she said. “Now the money is collected through the Chamber and the Chamber distributes the funds as we need. This allows us the ability to just focus on developing the downtown, which is exactly what we want to do.”
The mission statement, adopted from the original group, reads: “Atascadero’s Business Improvement District is an alliance of local businesses with the purpose of promoting growth and viability in
“Our goals focus on the beautification and marketing of the downtown area, which is quite larger than most realize,” Anna said. “People are starting to see the difference in the past couple of years. This is our passion and we want to accommodate our customers.”
“Anna is all about collaboration,” Nic said. “What she and others have been able to accomplish has been vital to Atascadero’s growth and success.”
“This is a small town, yet there are so many major things happening in our area,” Anna said. “As business owners, we know your kids, we know the teachers. This is why we do what we do — because it’s not just about business; its personal and it’s about our families and our neighbors. The mix we have here is quite unique; it’s like stepping back in time.”
For more information on the Atascadero Business Improvement District vor Anna & Mom, see annaandmom.com, stop by 5945 Entrada Ave. in Atascadero or contact Anna at 805-464-2922.