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A love story that happened in spite of the best-laid plans

By ELAINE HESSER

Published: February 14, 2014

IT’S BEEN said that “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” Pierre and Marietta Bain of Pacific Grove’s venerable Fandango restaurant can attest to that. They’ve been married for 38 years, and after watching them for just a few minutes, it’s evident they adore each other. It’s hard to believe that if their original plans had worked out, they never would have met.

Pierre was heir to the Grand Hotel Bain in Provence. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records because it’s been passed from father to son without exception since its opening in 1737, making it the world’s longest continuously owned family hotel. Pierre, the oldest of four boys, was sent to hotel school to learn the business. After graduation, the plan was for him to intern a year each at a hotel in an English-speaking and a German-speaking country — since he spoke both languages — then return home to manage the Grand Hotel.

Bain completed school and left for a year in Bermuda to start his English-speaking internship. One year turned into five before he was ready to go back to Europe. It was 1964, and Greyhound offered foreign visitors to the United States 19 days of unlimited travel for $19. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see the United States before leaving, Bain visited Florida and New Orleans, saw the Grand Canyon, and ended up in San Francisco, where he took a short-term job waiting tables at L’Etoile, an elegant restaurant in the Huntington Hotel. He explained his strategy: “You get a job and meet people who will take you around and show you the sights.”

Not long afterward, Aime Michaud, then-President of Del Monte Properties Company, dined at L’Etoile, and invited Bain to join the team that would open Pebble Beach’s swank new restaurant, Club XIX. Between the gorgeous scenery and the lure of Laguna Seca — Bain was a racing fan — the offer was irresistible. Fortunately, one of his brothers agreed to take over the family business in his stead. And in 1975, he met Marietta.

The former Marietta Marcuzzo’s family tree was populated by hard-working Sicilian fishermen and a widowed grandmother who managed to support six children by running restaurants in Omaha, Los Angeles and Monterey over the years. Marietta’s plan was to attend school in Saratoga to become a freelance court reporter. Like the rest of her family, she was diligent and energetic, holding down four jobs at once, one of which was a weekend stint at Club XIX. Soon, Pierre offered her a full-time job at the restaurant, and she decided to forgo the court reporting. “Pebble Beach was a dream job!” she said.

Pierre got up the nerve to ask her to a ski show at the Cow Palace. “My dad never gave me advice, but he told me not to go,” Marietta said. He didn’t have anything against Pierre, but Marietta worked for him and her father thought workplace romances were risky. “You love your job,” she remembers him saying, “and this can only lead to losing it.” She ultimately ignored his advice; she says she didn’t think of it as a date — and she didn’t care about skiing.

After the ski show, Pierre took her to Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant for dinner. “We sat on those big pillows on the floor,” Marietta remembers, smiling. “It was so romantic!” And so began a whirlwind romance and, for Marietta, over a decade of deception. “I lied about liking skiing for 12 years,” she laughed. “I tried to convince myself I liked it, but my children didn’t like it either.” Pierre chimed in, “That was pretty much the end of our ski trips.”

In 1986, with help from the late Alan Shugart (co-founder of Silicon Valley giant Seagate), Pierre and Marietta bought Fandango from the Georis family. They liked the cottage look and feel — it resembles the family hotel in Provence. They fancied it up a little with tablecloths and linen napkins, and made the menu their own. Regulars have their favorites from osso buco to sweetbreads — some things, as Pierre says, “you can’t get anywhere else.” Many of the staff have worked for him for decades, some going back to his days at Club XIX.

The couple agree that the best, and most challenging, thing about the last 38 years has been “working and being together every day.” They somehow found time to raise two children, and are the proud grandparents of two grandchildren. The whole family travels to France annually for a reunion. Some of the cousins have come to work a summer at Fandango, just as the Bains’ son, Rene, spent some summers at the Grand Hotel Bain.

When asked if they’d ever retire, Marietta quickly asserted that Pierre was “not allowed to retire.” He laughed. “I like it here,” he said. “I don’t do any heavy lifting anymore; but I’m not going to get bored.” He’s dedicated to keeping Fandango the traditional place locals love. And after nearly four decades together, he and Marietta seem dedicated to loving each other for many years to come as well. That, we think, sounds like a plan.