Romania to Bend to Citizen


(Photo, Courtesy of Citizen Bar & Kitchen)

Sanda Costello is the American dream. After a long plane ride and a five-day bus trip across the upper United States, Romanian native Sanda Costello and a hometown friend finally made it to Bend in the summer of 2005 to begin their journey as foreign college students. Costello, now co-owner of Bowtie Catering Co. and Citizen Bar and Kitchen quickly landed a job in hospitality and focused on learning English by studying restaurant menus, watching American television and practicing with friends and customers. While getting her corporate training at Shari’s Café, her fondness for Central Oregon and pie grew and grew. After getting married and starting a family, the journey of food and family began and paved the way to her culinary empire.

“Growing up in Romania and traveling a lot through Europe with my new family, I ate a lot of different foods,” says Costello. “I grew up watching my grandparents use everything from meat to vegetables to herbs go directly from the farm to the table,” she adds.

Before starting her first business, Costello sharpened her skills as a server, bartender, caterer and restaurant manager working in resort settings, pub atmospheres and fine dining restaurants. During this time, Costello was eating all types of different seafood and gourmet meats of elk and bison sausages. She was also tasting local wines and spirits made here in Oregon. Her palette was expanding and her ideas began to churn.

Bowtie Catering
In 2013, while working at Brother John’s Ale House, Costello met Gene Soto, owner and operator of next door neighbor Supervillain Sandwiches. Formerly the executive chef at Deschutes Brewery, Soto was professionally trained at the Western Culinary Institute of Portland and spent several years as a chef creating recipes and teaching in both Oregon and Washington.

Costello and Soto quickly learned they shared a passion for rich, International cuisine. After catering an event together, Soto and Costello knew it was their destiny to go into business together. They formerly debuted Bowtie Catering at the 2015 Central Oregon Wedding Show at the Riverhouse Convention Center and have been catering corporate lunches, weddings, charity events and private parties ever since out of a space on the Southwest side of town that doubled as a catering kitchen and café for new clientele to meet about events, eat lunch or pick up something to go. Little did the two of them know, the café was a trial run for bigger things.

Citizen Bar & Kitchen
In late 2017, it was a known fact that downtown institution High Tides restaurant would be closing its doors and going up for sale. Costello and Soto pounced. Once the deal was done, both worked their magic on interior changes, menus, hiring staff and preparing to run two businesses at once. While Bowtie was continually adding events to its calendar, Citizen, named for the fact that Costello recently got her American citizenship, opened its doors in early May. With a mouthwatering dinner menu and delicious cocktails, the restaurant was soon to earn the reputation that its sister company, Bowtie had. The atmosphere has been described as sleek, cozy and reminiscent of a Speakeasy.

When it came to creating a menu, there was no question that the two had the same thing in mind — local, fresh and International with a Pacific Northwest twist. There’s flavorful and unique Eastern European influences on the menus in both businesses and both Costello and Soto take pride in being able to use indigenous ingredients like fresh salmon, locally sourced beef, wild Oregon mushrooms and berries.


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Julie Furnas CBN Feature Writer

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