A fresh touch

Mary Geyer was the first person to bring La Cañada a smoothie shop, in the form of Juice-It-Up nine years ago. Now, she's the first to bring a potato bar to town — at her new business, Malfi's.

Malfi's, named after Geyer's "happy place," the Amalfi Coast in Italy, is doing something different with its food. The restaurant is equipped with a full-service salad and potato bar, soups, juices, smoothies and giant pretzels. All of the food is fresh and never processed.

"We're not unpacking things and just tossing them in containers. There's a huge difference in just the freshness and the flavors. It gives it a much more personal touch," said Geyer, just minutes after stepping away from cutting and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables for the day. "My tagline is 'Where it's fresh' but I feel like I should change it to 'Where it's normal' because that's really what it is."

Geyer's new establishment stands exactly where Juice-It-Up once did, 442 Foothill Blvd. She first opened Juice-It-Up in 2001 because she saw La Cañada was in need of a smoothie shop. The same motivation prompted Geyer to open Malfi's in November.

Although the new business will be known for its potatoes and salads instead of its juices and smoothies, both types of beverages are still available and healthier than ever. Geyer has eliminated the processed sugars that were prominent in Juice-It-Up's smoothies.

"[The smoothies] taste a lot different now but that's what real fruit tastes like," Geyer said.

Most of Malfi's menu comes right off the top of Geyer's head, resulting in unique flavors. Everything on the menu is prepared with the consumer's health in mind.

"It's kind of my mission — the shorter my ingredient list, the better I am," Geyer said.

One of her goals is to provide people an option to eat out on a budget without having to sacrifice quality.

"It's similar to what you'd be getting at Penelope's or the Dish or any of these restaurants where they have a full staff in the kitchen and out front," Geyer said. "The difference is I don't have a full staff out front."

Malfi's is still a work in progress with an official grand opening taking place in January, but it is open for business from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It can be difficult to spot Malfi's at first because it's still missing a sign. A large sticker on the window is the only clue to what exists at 442 Foothill Blvd. Geyer currently has five employees working part-time at Malfi's. She said she can't actually train anyone yet because she's still learning the ropes herself.

One thing Geyer does know is that she wants Malfi's to be known for its quality, affordability and hospitality.

"Price-wise I'm really trying to keep it where people can feel like they're getting a really good value," said Geyer, who charges by the size of the container, not by the pound. "I'm not really concerned about the bottom dollar right now; I'm more concerned with just getting the whole concept up and running… I'm trying to make people feel like they're getting white-linen service on a beer budget."

To learn more about Malfi's or place an order for some holiday salads or baked potatoes call Malfi's at (818) 952-7063.

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