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French restaurant Fleur de Sel closing in Post Falls after 13 years

Chef Laurent Zirotti and his wife, Patricia, shown here in 2018, are the owners of Fleur de Sel in Post Falls. They announced this week they are closing the restaurant May 19 after 13 years.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman/Review)

The owners of French restaurant Fleur de Sel, which had become a destination eatery during its 13 years in Post Falls, announced this week they will close next month.

Laurent and Patricia Zirotti made their decision known Tuesday on Facebook. In an interview Wednesday, Patricia Zirotti said the couple, both 57, had been considering their futures for some time.

She said the coronavirus pandemic convinced them to seek a less-hectic future.

“We have been working very, very hard for many, many years,” Patricia Zirotti said. “We opened our eyes. We realized we had not taken good care of ourselves. All of our family is in France. We only have one week off and we never go. So therefore, something had to change.”

The couple came from France and initially settled in Billings, Montana, for a decade before opening Fleur de Sel in Post Falls in 2008. With a staff that mostly stayed with them throughout, the couple was able to provide genuine French cuisine in North Idaho.

The restaurant earned a James Beard Award nomination in 2017. The couple also operated Fleur de Sel Creperie on Spokane’s lower South Hill for more than four years before shutting it down last year.

Even with the Post Falls restaurant as their main focus, the daily grind took its toll.

Laurent Zirotti often would start his day at 5:30 a.m. with the initial food preparations. He’d take a break over lunch and return in the afternoon. He’d work often until 10:30 p.m. or later and start all over again.

Patricia, who managed the business books, would arrive in the morning, take a break at midday and would close the restaurant, often as late as 12:30 a.m., she said.

“It really never ends,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how much work small restaurants are in order to make it work. When you love it, you don’t really look at the hours. But as we get older, it gets older.”

Except for a wine party on May 20 that is already fully booked, the restaurant will continue to serve customers until May 19. “We are still taking reservations. The phone has been ringing a lot,” she said.

As the Zirottis considered their next move, they decided to put the restaurant on the market. It quickly sold to Allison and Rob Burnett, who own Embers by the Lake in Hayden.

The couple, who has two grown sons who no longer live at home, took the quick sale as a further sign that it was time.

“We kept pushing (the decision) away, saying we’ll do it eventually,” Zirotti said. “COVID opened our eyes and told us life is really special.”

The Zirottis plan to take the summer off before deciding their next moves.

“I wish I could tell you that we are retiring, but we are not,” she said. “We don’t need much. We only have to pay the bills. It’s not all about money, you know.“

The more you have the more you need,” she continued. “And, we like to live pretty simply. So that’s why we can probably make this decision.”

Laurent Zirotti is interested in teaching, and Patricia said she has many interests she’d like to pursue.

“I have so many hobbies. We’ll see which direction I’ll take,” she said. “I know how to tackle a lot of things. I don’t know yet. I need to sleep on it over the summer.”

Zirotti credited her six employees for much of the restaurant’s success. Their main server worked for the Zirottis for 12 years.

“All of our success is really because of the amazing staff we’ve had,” she said. “They have been just incredibly loyal. It’s been a family. We owe them a lot and are are thankful for them.”

Now, the couple will have one final monthlong run before the Zirotti’s officially hang up their aprons.