Meet your new neighbors!
 

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We're still a family-run restaurant;
we just have a different last name!
A new family adventure.
Pictured:
Ron Fields; Christina's dad (A #1 Fan & "free" laborer!)
Christina Cunningham, Owner
Halle, Christina's daughter
Chad Fields; Executive Chef (& Christina's nephew)

 
Passing the baton!
Pictured:
Christina Cunningham, Owner of Sauced Pizzeria
Mark Murino, Owner of Marino's Italian Restaurant
Chad Fields, Executive Chef of Sauced Pizzeria

It all started on a run. My idea to open a restaurant, that is. 

On July 9, 2021, I headed out for my daily dose of fresh air and much-needed "natural" Xanax. 

You see, about 4 years earlier, my daughter had graduated from High School.  Since before she was born,  I'd been self-employed, building and leading one of California's fastest-growing and highest-producing Pampered Chef teams. Although my college degree from SDSU is in Sports Medicine, I fell absolutely, positively in love with sales, and truly geek-out when it comes to the topic of "the customer experience".  I felt so fortunate to be able to work from my home office; it allowed me to be room mom every year, I could volunteer for field-trips without asking a boss for permission, or go grab a girlfriend's sick child from school when she couldn't immediately get away.  Now don't get me wrong; I worked hard. Every minute at my desk was structured. I gave in-home Pampered Chef cooking shows every week, and assisted our Chicago-based corporate office with product development and training seminars.  But as much as I loved working from home, after Halle graduated, I got the crazy idea that it might be fun to use these skills I'd fine-tuned out "in the real world".

I was recruited by a local casino.  And yes, at first it was fun and exciting!  I enjoyed the daily interaction with my co-workers and our players; I promoted quickly and the money became outstanding.  But all too fast, going to work wasn't "fun" anymore. Forget ever having a holiday or weekend off.  In fact, any desired days off had to be requested six months prior...talk about a lack of a work-life balance!  Demanding, exhausting hours, unmotivating management, and plummeting employee morale were no longer worth the money. I dreaded going to work.

So that day, July 9th, while on that run, I decided that simply being a staff member in "the corporate world" was not for me.  If I was going to punch a time clock, it was going to be my time clock, and I knew I had it in me to launch "one more business venture" before I retired. This time, it would be a brick-and-mortar store, and with 27 years of "food and sales" under my belt, I decided my venture would be a restaurant. 

As important as it is to know you're strengths, it's just as important to know your weaknesses.  And in my case, I knew I needed an Executive Chef.  My thoughts quickly turned to my 30 year old nephew, Chad (& to the new found spring in my step due to the excitement growing inside me!). Chad had been in the restaurant industry since he was 15, and hands-down, that kid was one great cook. Although he'd never served as an Executive Chef before, I knew in my gut that his God-given talent, his indisputable passion for cooking, and pursuit to continuously better his skills had prepared him for this challenge.   Having worked the bulk of his years working with Italian food, what better type of restaurant to open than an Italian one?  In my head, I had it all worked out.  I just needed Chad to say yes.

I knew he wouldn't be able to understand me as I was huffing & puffing and sucking air, so I shot him three quick texts:

"Hey Chad, it's your favorite aunt!"

"Hi, Aunt Christina!"

"I have a crazy idea. I want to open a restaurant, but only if YOU'LL be my Executive Chef."

"Are you serious?  That's so cool! Sure, I'll do it!"

"Great!  I'm finishing my run, then getting cleaned up & heading straight to work. I'll call you later to talk about it; love you!"

   And while on my 10-minute  break that evening, I wrote my letter of resignation.  

The next morning, Chad & I were already looking at available Italian restaurants.  I made an offer on a brand new location in Mission Valley, and we were in escrow later that day.  Our heads were SPINNING!  

We each made a few phone calls and immediately had a full staff on board.  Everyone was beyond excited to be part of this!  I secured my business name, formed my LLC, opened bank accounts, began creating our menu, researched vendors, signed countless docusigns, and so much more.  Every single day was a whirlwind of activity!

Until the day that the Seller's broker called, and started the conversation with, "I'm not quite sure how to tell you this...."

Turned out that the seller did some shady things, and his broker dropped him like a hot potato.

Chad, myself, and our new-found staff were DEVASTATED. 

But you know what?  It was a God-thing that that sale collapsed.  About a month later, Mark Murino listed Marino's Italian Restaurant for sale.  Chad & I met with Mark and his broker right away, and we immediately knew that THIS was the restaurant we were supposed to have.  The camaraderie we felt with Mark was immediate; it was a friendship since Day One, and Chad and I are so grateful Mark chose US to take over this iconic establishment.

So, that's my story of how Sauced Pizzeria came to be.  How a crazy idea I had while on a run in El Cajon came to fruition in Pacific Beach, CA...and we LOVE it here!

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