There is a dinner hot spot in a commuter town in the 209 called Bistro 135 where guests can delight in a variety of items from a Basil Arancini, Arugula Apple Salad, to a Baked Bolognese, Pasta alla Norcina or wood-fired pizzas. Located on 10th Street in Tracy, Bistro 135 is just that small, casual restaurant that has big flavors hitting all the senses with their American, Italian cuisine from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Executive Chef and Owner Kevin Fahey has been cooking in the kitchen with his grandmother since he was 3 years old, when his love for food began. His grandmother had her own garden so farm to table is something that Fahey grew up with. After six years in the Air Force, he attended culinary school in Napa where he learned French techniques with California cuisine and different styles.
“My motto is good food people know,” said Fahey. “We have done well. It is a small family place. Everybody here feels welcome, it doesn’t matter what you wear. I don’t care if you are rich or poor, I want you to come here to eat. Food brings people together and that is how it should be. That is what we want here at Bistro. We are simple. It is about the food.”
The restaurant industry can be challenging and a lot of work but Fahey has found some solace with a great crew, supportive community, and a family he loves dearly. The restaurant opened in April 2016; a business venture that he started with his wife. Through many changes over six years like surviving a pandemic, losing his grandparents, and becoming a father of three little ones himself, Fahey feels fortunate to have a successful bistro.
“It feels surreal,” Fahey said. “I never thought we would have a successful business let alone a restaurant because of how hard it is to make money in this industry. I feel like people were born to do restaurants. It is a different industry. If you are not willing to put the work in and the hours, it will not survive.”
There are 12 employees at the restaurant and two sous chefs that have been with Fahey for the past six years. They are given creative freedom in the kitchen, which has influenced the menu. Tracy native and Sous Chef Jesse Gomez shared that his favorite day in the kitchen is their fresh handmade “Ravioli Thursdays.”
“Tracy never had anything like this before,” said Gomez. “I am born and raised in Tracy. I am fifth generation. All my family comes in all the time. It feels good to be able to put good food out that everybody loves.”
On Thursday, Gomez gets in and makes the handmade pasta and creates a new ravioli each week. When asked what his favorite ravioli is he said, “my favorite ravioli is the next ravioli.”
“I am proud of my guys back there,” said Fahey. “We are not perfect but they do a really great job consistently. It is my crew and me that make this restaurant run and they do a very good job. I have a great staff that I trust 100 percent.”
Like the regulars that they have in the dining room, the same is true of the menu with a few items that have been there since day one including the Creamy Chicken, Chicken Parmesan, Mac N’ Cheese, and the Cast Iron Sizzling Shrimp. The original menu only had 16 items on it but that has evolved through the years to many more delectable offerings.
The Chicken Parmesan is a guest favorite that is hand-breaded chicken breast with herbs and spices crisped to perfection, tomato sauce, mozzarella served with a non-traditional pasta in a white yummy cream sauce making this dish very palate pleasing.
The house made Baked Bolognese with slow-cooked ground pork, beef in tomatoes and vegetables that is traditionally made with pancetta but at 135 they use bacon, which gives it a little bit of a different taste while keeping that authentic texture and is very well done, topped with bread crumbs and freshly grated cheese and a little kick from the red chili pepper flakes.
The shareable, crispy Basil Arancini balls are made with their in-house risotto, parmesan brodo, fresh basil and cheese that are deep fried and served on the house tomato sauce with a balsamic reduction. The crispy outside with the soft goodness on the inside is a delightful treat.
For those that may want something a little lighter they have soups and salads like the Arugula and Apple Salad made with red onions, macerated cranberries, honey glazed pecans and apple slices with a house made apple vinaigrette, giving it a very nice blend of sweet and savory flavors.
They have two hydroponic gardens where they grow herbs for both the restaurant and the bar. They have happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“What surprises me is how open-minded I have become since opening my restaurant six-and-a-half years ago,” added Fahey. “I love the rush of things. I love that every day is different. People need to eat so as long as you have a good restaurant and quality food you should never go out of business. I will never go hungry; my family will never go hungry. My perspective has changed after having kids. Family is more important than anything in life. Without family and without love, nothing matters on this earth.”