monterey herald - oct 22

Dining Out: Hospitality Award goes to Cantrell

The Monterey County Herald, January 5, 2011. Local restaurant junkies can't help but remember John "Spud" Spadaro, the larger-than-life, gregarious chef/restaurateur best known for his iconic Spado's restaurant in Oldtown Salinas. From 1995 to 2002, Spado's was the place to go in Salinas, with "Spud's" inventive food and his generous hospitality.

Spadaro died in March at age 49, but his legacy continues in the form of the first-ever John "Spud" Spadaro Hospitality Award, a nod to a local restaurant employee who best embodies the spirit and generosity of the award's namesake. The inaugural award went to Monterey Cookhouse owner Linda Cantrell, who is well known for her spirit, warmth and free hugs given to her "extended family."

The award is the brainchild of Johnny Aliotti, a Monterey native and hospitality veteran who knew Spadaro well. "He was Mr. Hospitality in every respect," Aliotti said. "He was just a cordial, honorable, nice guy who always remembered you. We don't get that much anymore."

Following a not-so-pleasant experience at a restaurant he won't name, Aliotti gathered with his friends and hatched the idea to honor a local worker who most reminded them of "Spud." He approached Spadaro's parents, Pat and Vito Spadaro, "and they loved the idea. They were touched." After discussing several local nominees, the panel choose Cantrell. "Linda goes out of her way to make people comfortable and happy," Aliotti said. "She treats her customers like family."

About 50 people gathered at the Cookhouse in late December, surprising Linda as she walked in the door on her night off. "It was my night off and I was told there was a problem at the restaurant," Cantrell said. "I walked in and saw all my friends and loyal customers, and I got jealous. I was hurt. I thought "Why are they all here having fun on my night off?'" After a greeting from Aliotti and Spadaro's family, Cantrell gave a quick, emotional speech. "I was so moved," she said. "Spud was an icon, and I am very honored by this."

The Monterey Cookhouse features California cuisine, a delicious fusion of cooking styles and ingredients from around the world. We are well-known for our wood-fired cuisine. Our house specialties include delicious flame broiled steaks,
lightly smoked and barbecued ribs and briskets, and fresh seafood.
Traeger Smoker - Oak-fired Grill - Wood-fired Pizza Oven - Family friendly
Barbecued ribs, brisket, & pulled pork. Oak-grilled steaks. Smoked prime rib. Fresh seafood. Wood-fired pizza.