Trattoria Mollie — a popular Italian restaurant operated by an enthusiastic, acclaimed Ethiopian chef whose culinary studies took her to Italy — has closed its remaining location on State Street.
Sunday was the last day of business at the restaurant. The closure came on the heels of the previous closure of Trattoria Mollie on Coast Village Road in Montecito after three decades.
But Chef Mollie Ahlstrand remains determined to be an active part of the community that loves her cuisine and everlasting smile.
The Montecito chef told the News-Press Tuesday that she is already busy with her newest venture, Mollie’s Catering. “I’ve already booked so many parties.”
And she’s teaching cooking classes as well.
But that’s not all.
“Tino’s Italian Grocery on Carrillo Street will be selling my items such as lasagna bolognese, veggie lasagna, minestrone, etc.,” she said. She added her goods will also soon be at Tri-County Produce.
“Who knows? I might open a small restaurant,” she said.
Mrs. Ahlstrand, who was born in Mekele, Ethiopia, studied at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and later political science at UCSB, but decided by the late 1980s to study Italian cuisine in northern Italy for several years. She returned to the U.S. in the early 1990s, first in Seattle. Then in 1992, she opened her first Trattoria Mollie on De la Vina Street in Santa Barbara, moving it the next year to Coast Village Road in Montecito.
Mrs. Ahlstrand enjoyed long success with the restaurant, but told the News-Press that after the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt ready to go into a new direction. The catering and cooking classes fit the bill as she keeps her customers in mind.
“I wanted to start with my good customers and do whatever they need me to cook: small parties, big parties,” she said.
Mrs. Ahlstrand explained she really never thought of the people in her restaurant as her customers. “They are my family.
“I’m very grateful and fortunate for the past 30 years to have this wonderful community,” she said. “Everybody is so supportive and wonderful. They’re there for me.”
Mrs. Ahlstrand said many customers came to her restaurant last weekend after she told them she was closing the doors. She said customers, including some tearful about the closure, expressed support to her during conversations and text messages.
She added that she has always enjoyed cooking for her customers in general and, in particular, her son Ali and the late Montecito couple Kirk and Anne Douglas. She would bring dishes liked by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas to their home on Mondays, her day off from her restaurant.
“Kirk was the most down-to-earth genuine loving person,” Mrs. Ahlstrand said, adding that she loved the movie star and his wife and their son, movie star Michael Douglas.
People interested in Mrs. Ahlstrand’s cooking classes and catering services can reach her at email@example.com.