Looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or create memories with your family or friends, then Citrone Restaurant, 328 Orange St., in Redlands, which serves a Californian/Mediterranean cuisine, might be the place for you.

Citrone, founded in 1995, has been at the M. M. Phinney Building since 1999; it’s a 1902 brick building that received a 2010 Heritage Award from the Redlands Area Historical Society after prior owners Michael and Susan Phillips’ remodel. Phinney, who was an investor during early 1900s, built the Phinney Block that now houses Joe Greensleeves Restaurant, 220 Orange St., Adair Photography & Time in a Bottle, 344 Orange St.

The Phillips, after receiving building permits from the city of Redlands in 2001, rebuilt the counter outside the kitchen, added a bar with vintage cherry wood, built a private dining room upstairs that sits 20 guests and extended the dining room which seats 80 guests to the sidewalk.

They also replaced the windows downstairs with efficient Pella windows that replicate the original windows from 1902.

In 2017 current co-owners Brandon Pearce and Dan Isham, a former waiter for Citrone, bought the restaurant from the Phillips.

Pearce said that they plan on remodeling the basement, which currently houses Citrone’s 560-plus wine collection, into an additional private dining area.

Speaking of wine, this collection helped earn Citrone the Wine Spectator Best of Excellence Award three years running.

Other alcoholic beverages include bottled beers and cider ranging from $6 to $11; cocktails and martinis are $12. Liqueurs, sprints and cordials range from $9 to $52.

Tuesday through Thursday’s wait staff Emily Crowley, Nadia Syrko and Matt Daniels skillfully operate the bar. Friday night and Saturday a part-time bartender is staffed, as those nights are the busiest time for Citrone.

Citrone also offers a variety of soft drinks, sparkling waters, coffee, espresso and an assortment of teas.

Crowley, Syrko and Daniels served me during my visit at Citrone; they are part of a 13-member staff that includes Head Chef Erik Garduno.

Garduno, who grew up in the city of San Bernardino, recently spoke to a classroom of students taking a summer school health class at San Andreas High School.

He told students about his years as a student in the San Bernardino Unified School District and that after bouncing around different school districts he was placed in Sierra High School, one of two alternative/continuation high schools, the other being San Andreas High School.

Garduno started at Cajon High School but soon got kicked out due to bad grades. He was then sent to Sierra High School where he was soon expelled and then went to a county school in the city of San Bernardino.

He said in his junior year the county gave him the option of going to any school in any district to finish his senior year, he chose to go to the Sierra because he “knew that kind of system was going to work for me.” He said the system at Sierra “allowed me to excel, instead of waiting for the pace of the class.”

Garduno graduated on time in 2010. He did a short stint as a warehouse worker, which he realized was not for him, and decided to enroll in culinary school on Valentine’s Day 2011.

Garduno said the primary reason behind his decision to go to culinary school was that, at the time, multiple members of his family had a lot of health issues due to bad dietary choices. He said those family members were experiencing “heart issues” and “losing limbs.”

Garduno graduated from culinary school in November of 2012 after an 18-month course.

Now Garduno uses those skills in cooking high-quality food for guests at Citrone.

My first course was a fig salad ($15) with mixed greens, figs, dried apricots, candy nuts and Gorgonzola cheese with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

For lovers of dried fruits and nuts, this salad is for you. The homemade dressing and Gorgonzola cheese paired well with the rest of the ingredients.

In between bites on the fig salad, I was also enjoying seared ahi (tuna) ($17) with crusted pepper as an appetizer. As I am an avid seafood lover, this item mixed well with the fig salad.

The restaurant has an in-house baker who bakes Citrone’s pastries fresh every day; I enjoyed one of the house dinner rolls with the salad and ahi.

Next up was the main course, a 13-ounce New York steak ($48) with bourbon gravy lightly seasoned with peppercorn, served with broccoli and homemade mashed potatoes on the side.

Now I have had my share of steaks folks but this one was good to the very last bite. The gravy on the steak mixed with the sides had my taste buds screaming, “Eureka!”

This steak truly was the best I have ever had.

Last but not least we cannot forget dessert. Co-owner Brandon Pearce asked the kitchen to provide me a half slice each of olive oil cake with orange mascarpone and vanilla bean cheesecake with caramel crumbles along with a small side of blueberries and strawberries. If you were to order these items individually from the dessert menu it would be $10 for either item. Other dessert items include tiramisu, chocolate cake with ice cream or lemon meringue pie. Dessert items are often rotated depending on what Garduno feels like serving.

The items that were served to me were part of a chef’s special and are not always on Citrone’s regular menu, which can found at citronerestaurant.com/menus/.

Other menu items include pan-roasted duck, pork chops, veal, pan-seared chicken and a variety of pastas.

Happy eating!

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