Downtown Local is the Bay Area's Next Destination for Nostalgic Motorcyclists

We sit down with owner John Betteo to learn more

downtown local building storefront
Downtown Local is located in Pescadero, California, about three miles off CA-1 in the Bay Area.Andrew F./Yelp

A lifelong restaurateur, John Betteo has a soft spot for vintage Italian motorcycles, great coffee, vinyl records and vintage collectibles. He and his wife Nicole Sillapere moved 48 miles south, from sophisticated San Francisco to the sleepy California coastal town of Pescadero (population 643), in 2012. A year later the couple opened Downtown Local, a café with a unique personality on par with the husband and wife who opened it.

motorcycle fuel tanks on a shelf
Vintage tanks, vinyl records, toys and clothing from Deus Ex Machina are all for sale.Gaz Boulanger

Walls are lined with old La Gazetta dello Sport newspapers; Beatles and Three Stooges posters, books and other tchotchkes line the shelves. A 1935 Moto Guzzi GTV sits center stage in the large glass window. Old pinewood derby cars share space with vintage motorcycle gas tanks and helmets. A tiny movie theater in the back plays old-timey movies. It's like walking into the ultimate man cave for folks over 40.

1935 moto guzzi gtv fuel tank close up
A 1935 Moto Guzzi GTV takes center stage.Gaz Boulanger

Downtown Local has quickly become the destination for motorcyclists rolling down CA-1, or for riders seeking caffeine after lunch at Alice’s Restaurant, about 30 minutes up CA-84 through groves of redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. It helps that Duarte’s—one of the West’s oldest taverns opened in 1894—is right across the street on Stage Road.

Here’s an interview I did with Betteo recently.

I was born in South America but was raised in Alabama of all places. A great place to dirt bike, however, in the pecan orchards and through the recently-plowed farm lands. My mom would not allow me to ride bikes, so I would go to friends' homes and ride with them in secret as much as I could.

After high school I spent five years of higher learning at Auburn University, trying not to flunk out and drinking as much beer as possible. Wasted my parent's money (sorry, dad), but did receive a B.S. in business. Worked with my dad at his restaurant and taught myself how to create in the kitchen. Then at age 27 I opened my own place in Santa Cruz. Fast forward 25 years, my wife and I moved out of San Francisco to a more pastoral existence, only to find no good coffee in Pescadero.

john betteo portait
Owner John Betteo, an old-guy hipster, motorcyclist and coffee slinger.Whitney D./Yelp

So I reached into my five years of schoolin' and 25 years experience and opened Downtown Local in 2013, serving only Sightglass Coffee and displaying and selling all my vintage collectibles. I'm an old-guy hipster as my daughters call me, and apparently Downtown Local is a "hipster" shop. Yes, I do play vinyl, and yes I do ride an old scrambler but I will not grow a beard.

I regret selling my motorcycles. If I had space, I'd have 45 bikes right now but I can only keep seven or eight of them at a time. I like looking at them, wrenching a bit on them and riding them. But after a couple of years they gotta go to make room for the next one that I promise I will never sell!

vintage italian motorcycle
Betteo has a soft spot for more than just vintage Italian bike.Tiffany W./Yelp

I prefer Moto Guzzi. I'm of Italian heritage so I prefer Italian bikes. Ducati, however, is everywhere so I stick with its slow, frumpy cousin. My 1978 LeMans is my baby, followed by my recently acquired 1935 GTV. So beautiful to look at.

I always keep my eyes and ears open for old gems. For some reason they're moving up in price. Six years ago you couldn't give them away and now if you find an old Eldorado it will run you $5,000 or more. It sucks.