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Longtime chef, bartender take over ownership at downtown’s Scratch and Rain

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 20, 2019, 12:09 p.m.

By Adriana Janovich The Spokesman-Review

The decor is staying the same for now. So is the menu.

But the ownership and management of Scratch and Rain, the downtown eatery and adjacent lounge located across the street from Spokane’s Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, has changed.

Two longtime employees and one of their spouses have purchased the restaurant and bar and are planning to largely keep things the same while they get comfortable in their new roles. Chef Silviano “Sil” Hernandez, bartender Mari Bork and her husband, Brad Bork, are busy taking on new tasks as owners and managers. And they’re collectively thrilled to be in this position.

“Separately we couldn’t do it,” Mari Bork said. “Together we could.”

She’s been bartending here for about 11 years. And Hernandez has been cooking here for just a bit longer. Brad Bork, a tile setter for 16 years, is returning to the restaurant industry after nearly two decades away. He’s serving as the general manager.

“I’d like the word to get out: It’s under new management. It’s under new ownership,” he said. “I want to treat it like our living room. I want to get to know people. I want people to get to know us and come back. I’m waiting for the day a customer comes back and says, ‘Hey, is Brad here?’ If you’re here, more than likely you’re running into one of the owners. We want to be hands-on.”

The trio took over the space Dec. 1. The sale was finalized Feb. 1.

Scratch opened in late 2007. Rain opened in 2008, less than a year later. Both were started by Connie Naccarato, who used to own Mamma Mia’s in North Spokane with her parents.

Hernandez worked there, too. He said he’s always dreamed of owning his own restaurant.

“I love food,” Hernandez said. “My passion is it has to taste good and look pretty. I like to be creative.”

But, when Naccarato first approached him with the idea of buying the business, he said, “I didn’t take it seriously at first.”

And, it still “hasn’t clicked yet.”

He came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was a teen, first to Chicago, then to Spokane. “I just fell in love with it,” he said. “Spokane is a good place to raise a family.”

He has four children, ages 6, 8, 12 and 18. And Mari and Brad Bork have two, ages 14 and 17.

She came to Spokane about 25 years ago from Missoula with plans to attend law school. Instead, she started working in restaurants.

She worked at the old Cyrus O’Leary’s in downtown Spokane for about seven years before moving to Vancouver, Washington, where she worked in a restaurant with her husband. They returned to Spokane after about five years, and she took a job in the lounge at Hotel Lusso, where she met Naccarato.

Like Hernandez, she also dreamed of someday owning a restaurant.

“We couldn’t have opened our own place for the price we bought this place,” her husband said. “We couldn’t say no.”

Scratch, done in black and white with red accents, opened just days before the Fox Theater reopened. Community and arts advocates had begun a campaign to save the 1931 art deco theater, which had been threatened with demolition. The restaurant and its counterpart lounge, Rain, done in brick and blue, became popular pre- and post-theater for dinner, drinks or dessert before or after a show. Scratch has also catered events at the theater.

The name comes from the kind of cooking they do there. “We make everything from scratch,” Naccarato said in 2017 just before the restaurant’s 10th anniversary.

The new owners, all in their 40s, plan to keep the name, most of the decor and signature menu items. Several haven’t changed since the restaurant opened, including the popular “grown-up” grilled cheese with fresh mozzarella, brie, Parmesan, Boursin, pears, hickory bacon and fresh basil.

Other mainstays are the calamari, lasagna, charcuterie board, hummus, crab chowder, gnocchi, hot pot, seafood trio (lobster tail, scallops and prawns in a lemon cream sauce with Parmesan risotto) and Scratch salad with baby spinach, bacon, brie, apples, candied walnuts and pomegranate vinaigrette.

The house-made gnocchi, pasta, marinara sauce and lasagna come from family recipes Naccarato used to use at Mamma Mia’s.

Signature desserts include creme brulee, house-made ice cream and the bag of doughnuts, tossed with a choice of powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate, caramel and huckleberry dipping sauces.

Monday and Tuesday, it’s happy hour all day. And for that, Mari Bork said, “We did some roll-back pricing in the bar.”

Wells are $5, down from $5.75. Drafts are $4, down from $4.75. (Wine is staying the same, at $6 per glass.)

The new owners have also added half orders of calamari and bruschetta to the happy hour menu and “tried to keep everything below $10, with a couple of exceptions,” Mari Bork said.

Those exceptions include the grilled cheese and fish tacos, both $12, as well as the lasagna at $13 and bacon burger at $15.

Happy hour also runs 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday as well as 9 p.m. to close. They’d like to see business during late-night time slot pick back up.

They’d also like to add more live music. And, eventually, they might make small changes to the decor and seating in the lounge.

But, mostly, Mari Bork said, “we’re going to keep it as it is for now.”

There are 16 employees in all, including the three owners. And there’s a back dining room, which can be rented for private parties and meetings.

Look for some seasonal dishes, just like before. Hernandez is considering offering some Mexican specials to honor his upbringing in Oaxaca.

“We couldn’t do what Sil does,” Brad Bork said. “Everyone has their roles. We don’t step on each other’s toes. We all just trust each other to take care of our responsibilities.”

The transition, Mari Bork said, “was kind of seamless.

“I love this spot,” she said. “It’s a happy place. It’s established. I feel like it has a good reputation. And we’re 100 percent committed to giving people an enjoyable experience.

“This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for, and it’s exciting.”

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