January 2004

Meet Kelly and Tracy

With a combined 35 plus years experience in the restaurant industry, owners Kelly Kissee and Tracy Parks-Barber opened Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar in January 2004. This downtown Santa Cruz restaurant was no small feat...

Kelly & Tracy both grew up in a small California town. Friends since high school, these two women started their restaurant careers as teenagers working in several restaurants in the mountain area and continued their restaurant experience in San Luis Obispo waiting tables to put themselves through college. Both women shared the dream of someday opening a restaurant designed with their own style and cultivated with their own hands.


After the completion of college they were determined to give the restaurant industry a shot but were lacking the financial backing. Given the opportunity to take over a pizza franchise, they packed their bags and moved to a small town in Washington. Personally remodeling the restaurant was just the start of many long days to come in order to turn this business around.
To keep the new business afloat, Tracy and Kelly would start each day opening the restaurant by making dough, prepping food and setting up for the day ahead. During hours of operation they were hands on from spinning the dough, making pizzas, taking care of customers, delivering orders to handling the financial aspect of the restaurant. At the close of each day they would lock the doors so they could begin washing dishes, mopping floors and closing down the restaurant only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. These very long days became an everyday routine for the next three years.

Pizza Factory.

Pizza Factory.

kianti's is born

Successfully improving their restaurant in Washington and wanting to get back to their home state of California, Kelly and Tracy purchased another franchise in a small California town. After an entire year of running two stores they were able to sell their Washington location and focus on building their California location. Enormous energy was put forth in this franchise for the next four years before making the decision to sell their second investment. Still determined to follow their initial vision and now having the experience and knowledge of owning and operating restaurants to accompany their dream, they were ready to open their very own business. With their ambition to reach for the stars and their routine franchise restrictions behind them, they began building their own restaurant from the ground up.
In January 2002 they signed the lease of the old Cat & Canary building in downtown Santa Cruz. At the beginning of the renovation it was just a shell and had been vacated for several years. Tracy and Kelly mapped out their vision of the restaurant on a piece of paper and took it to an architect to make their plans a reality. Before long they broke ground and were on the premise each day making sure their ideas were executed correctly and dealing with unexpected delays. In addition to the overwhelming construction taking place they would attend restaurant auctions purchasing equipment, work with vendors to purchase supplies, interview and train employees, and coordinate all elements to be ready for the Grand Opening.