The greatest hits of the 1960s and 70s are once again playing on the speakers throughout the building at 111 N. Golden State Blvd. in Turlock, the home of Latif’s by Pedretti. The iconic diner, which first opened in 1953 and moved into its current location in 1959, reopened on Aug. 24 after being closed for two and a half years following a kitchen fire on the day of Super Bowl LV.
“It’s been a crazy two years,” said owner Nick Pedretti. “It’s been a long, rough process, but I’m so happy we’ve gotten it done.”
The fire on Feb. 7, 2021 had begun in the kitchen and quickly led to the entire building falling victim to severe smoke damage. To this day, Pedretti isn’t quite sure what caused the fire. His best guesses are that it was either the refrigeration system or the electrical unit, which was installed in 1956.
“Absolutely everything was damaged,” Pedretti said.
Pedretti explained that since shutting their doors to the public on that February day, he couldn’t go anywhere without people asking him about Latif’s. They were questions he appreciated, but also ones he was hesitant to answer.
“It’s great when people care so much and want to talk about this place, but when you don’t know what’s going to happen for certain, it weighs on you and there were times where it got pretty stressful,” he shared. “I’ve had family helping me out and friends getting me going through the time. If not for them, we definitely would not be where we are right now.”
Pedretti believes that it took every single one of the 927 days to get the restaurant back open, as insurance claims had to be sorted out and almost everything inside needed to be replaced.
“We had to replace everything and renovate everything so that it could all be up to code,” he said. “Nothing could be grandfathered in anymore, so everything had to be new. Figuring out which insurance was paying for what also slowed things, but we made it.”
Sure, everything is new, including the kitchen, the bathrooms, ceilings and the paint, but the restaurant still has the same feel as it has had for the last seven decades.
On the building’s brick wall on the far side of the restaurant, the light blue paint is complemented by shelves with orange vases, plants and vintage images of former Latif’s customers and employees. Pedretti explained that the idea came from loyal customer Jaci Machado. She had the original photos blown up and printed onto large canvases as an ode to the restaurant’s rich history.
Also being kept the same are the orange booths and stools, including the two seats that were occupied by President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush in 1988.
“We didn’t make any super crazy changes because I knew that people would be upset if I did,” Pedretti explained. “I was never going to do much different anyway. There’s too much history here.”
Pedretti and his staff are also planning on continuing the tradition of serving fresh pies to their customers. For now, pies are only available on the weekends as staff continue to get trained by the niece of original piemaker Paula Loomis.
As for the breakfast and lunch menus, they remain mostly the same, with a handful of new sandwiches. For those 21 and over, the reopening has also introduced an expanded menu of beers and wines.
According to Pedretti, since the reopening, everything has been a hit.
“People asking about this place showed me that people were anxious for us to come back, and it’s proven to be true,” he joked. “We’re definitely at full-go now, and it’s nice to know. You get nervous if people are going to come back or not, but slowly they’re all coming.”
Some of the returning parties include Kiwanis of Greater Turlock, Turlock Rotary and the football programs of Turlock High and Pitman High, who have reserved the newly renovated second floor on select days of the week.
Pedretti admitted that the reopening process has been a learning experience, especially considering the fact that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fire, the diner has only been open at full capacity for three months since he purchased it in 2019.
“We’ve barely had three months of being open normally, and we’re going on year four of me owning this place, so it’s been a pretty crazy couple of years,” he said. “I’m happy that we’ve finally gotten it going. Now it’s about making sure everything goes well and keeping this place open.”
Latif’s by Pedretti is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Starting this week, they will be open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays till 7 p.m.