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Paninis, Cafe Fare a Hit at The Press in Pleasanton

A quiet small shopping center on Pleasanton’s Santa Rita Road has one decidedly unquiet corner almost every day. It’s The Press, an Artisan Cafe, which opened last April Fools’ Day. But that’s no joke to the owners, Rebekah and Marshall Culp. The novice restaurateurs had just five days to make the cafe their own, after taking over from the previous owner.

“No fooling,” Marshall says now of their venture. The couple made minor cosmetic improvements in that time, and the result is a warm, cozy space that seems to bustle most open hours. He says business is good despite lack of advertising — Yelp users are spreading the word. “I think we just filled a void that part of Pleasanton needed. No one around there was doing what we’re doing.”
The Press’ specialty is paninis (get it?) that aren’t the usual fare. For instance, a triple grilled cheese — cheddar, swiss and Brie — is combined with jalapeƱo and bacon. Smoked turkey is combined with tomato jam. The saucisson salami caprese is pesto, Brie, tomato and basil, and there’s a beet, chevre and arugula offering. There’s even a peanut butter, jelly and banana for those seeking the comfort foods of their childhood.
The Press is the culmination of a dream the couple have had since they married 20 years ago. You might say food has been in their relationship since they first met in Fremont, where Rebekah worked at Leatherby’s ice cream parlor and Marshall was her customer. Until recently the couple was commuting from their Livermore home to a Menlo Park law firm where Marshall was in facilities and Rebekah, whose degree is in food management, headed up the corporate catering company.

“After years of commuting and dealing with the corporate world, we just wanted to do something different,” Marshall says. A Craigslist ad for the cafe in Pleasanton quickly made their desires a reality. Their friends and relatives thought they were crazy.

“Yes, be careful what you pray for,” Rebekah says with a laugh. ” For me, the business part of it was the hardest. We had to just have faith and do it. But it was hard. And scary.”
Marshall agrees. “The unknown was the biggest thing. In the corporate world, you know you’re going to get a paycheck. With your own business, you show up to work but might get nothing. But we don’t have kids, so if we starve, it’s just us!”
The Press doesn’t have a full kitchen, but they do sauces and soups from scratch. They use Acme bread, Zoe’s meats and McLaughlin Coffee. The couple share the duties in the kitchen and serving customers.

Rebekah’s mind is always churning with ideas. For instance, she was eating a summer peach and blue cheese salad a few months ago. “I thought, I wonder what it would be like in a panini? I like to mix the savory with the sweet.”

So does her husband. He’s been experimenting with homemade marshmallows. “I tried making a bacon maple marshmallow, but it just wasn’t right,” he says. “So I added ghost pepper and sea salt.”

In the nine months The Press has been open, the Culps are noticing a customer trend. Moms hang out at the cafe with friends after dropping kids off at school. There’s usually a lunch rush from Hacienda Business Park. Saturdays offers a different menu — eggs benedict and cheesy grits with eggs and bacon — so word-of-mouth is getting customers from further afield.

The returning-customer rate is about 45 percent, Marshall says. “We have a man who gets a cappuccino every day. Another gets a poached egg. And some people come twice a day!”


By Lynn Carey, Bay Area News Group. Used by permission.