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Making a difference Jim and Annette Murdaca get back to basics at their Lodi restaurant, Pietro’s

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Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:06 am, Tue Jan 17, 2012.

Jim Murdaca was raised on fresh vegetables from the garden. Because of this, he believes in getting back to the basics.

Earlier this year, he expanded his restaurant, Pietro's of Lodi. Among the many changes was a garden of numerous vegetables that was planted on the restaurant grounds.

In 1985, Jim and his wife Annette took over ownership of the family-style restaurant from Pietro and Amelia Murdaca. This year, they decided to revert back to the old way of growing their own vegetables.

"Instead of landscaping, we said, 'Why not plant something we can eat?'" he said. "Basically, we are going back to how we started."

Seasonal vegetables are planted in every available space on the property, including curb beds and in between parking slots.

Currently, the Murdacas are growing winter vegetables including arugula, peas, fava beans, broccoli and spinach. The summertime crops are vegetables such as basil, tomatoes, Swiss chard, eggplant, bell peppers, parsley, cantaloupe and different varieties of zucchini. They have also planted more than 60 lemon and lime trees. The vegetables are labeled so customers can wander through and look at them.

"People love it. They just like to walk and look at them," said Murdaca.

Along with the garden, the Murdacas also developed an outdoor seating area that seats 70 people and also has an outdoor fireplace and fountain. The objective was to make customers feel like they are not on Kettleman Lane, said Murdaca, and added that many feel like they are in Italy. The whole project, which took 24 months, was completed in June.

For the upcoming year, Murdaca hopes to just keep improving the restaurant. He plans to go over a few new ideas that he feels would benefit the customers.

"We look at the trends of people. People are trending to lighter, fresher food," he said.

Contact Features Editor Pam Bauserman at pamelab@lodinews.com. Find the best bargains in Lodi on Pam's blog, Saving with Pam.

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