Homemade Food and Renewal at Wild Strawberry Café

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Ken Pietrowski talks with Arielle Thompson after ordering a coffee to go. Pietrowski, like many of the shops regulars, works nearby and often comes in for coffee or lunch on the go. Photos by Sara Hall

It’s more than the fresh, healthy and homemade food at The Wild Strawberry Café that keeps customers coming back, it’s that extra something special.

“It gives me such joy to see everybody come in and seeing the smiles and satisfaction,” said Natasha Kazic, the owner of the café.

Kazic, who opened the café on Valentine’s Day 2010, said she feels the café offers more than just healthy food.

“I know this café is not just a café,” she said. “There are a lot of other greater things that I have observed that have helped so many other people.”

“I’ve been through a lot in life,” Kazic continued. “All the challenges I’ve gone through in life, you learn from them and you use them, and I know I’m supposed to use mine to help people out.”

Kale Strawberry Salad at Wild Strawberry Café.

The café has already helped her more than she ever could have imagined.

“I really wasn’t planning on having a café, I was just going through a shift in my life,” Kazic said. “I was kind of stuck at that point in my life.”

The shift caused her to re-evaluate her life and consider what might be the right path for her in life, she said.

“I always want to make sure I’m doing the right thing, that it has a purpose,” she said.

Kazic had gone through a different life shift before. About a decade ago she weighed almost 230 pounds and she re-evaluated her situation. She changed the direction her life was heading and became a nutritionist, and wellness and fitness instructor.

So this time she went on a 40 day fast.

“To cleanse myself physically, spiritually, and mentally,” she said, just to make herself a blank slate, ready and open to opportunities.

She soon came across the café

“Something said to me, ‘This is what you’re going to do, here’s the café, here’s the location, you’re going to build a café.’ As crazy as that sounds, that’s basically what it was. Should we say intuition? A voice? An energy? Whatever you want to call it, that’s what it was,” Kazic explained.

She spoke with her broker about the café and he recommended that she not go ahead with it. But she trusted her instinct and sealed the deal within the week.

A lot of people doubted her and were worried about how she’d fare in the down economy, she said, until they saw her dive into revitalizing the location and developing the café, most were on board

“I did everything with my own hands,” she said.

Things just fell into place how they were supposed and within two months she opened up shop in the design plaza near Fashion Island.

So far, it’s been more than she ever envisioned. And she can see the café growing into a strong, well-known brand.

It’s also pretty amazing that the café has grown so popular given that Kazic does no formal advertising, it’s all word of mouth.

The gets around partially because Kazic emphasizes customer service.

“Treat everybody that comes through this door as royalty, as a king or a queen, no matter who it is,” she said. “If it’s a regular customer that we see three times a day, I want that person to be treated like a king or a queen every single time.”

Another area Kazic emphasizes is freshness and quality.

“What I put out here is only what I would eat myself, what I would serve in my home, what I would serve my children,” Kazic said.

Everything is made fresh daily, from the pastries to all the salads.

Kazic also offers nutritional information and advice for customers, which comes naturally to her, given her background.

They also have had several celebrity sightings, she said, like reality TV show stars, professional athletes and local celebrities.

The café is popular with people from all walks of life.

“There is a little bit of everything for everybody,” Kazic said.

A few of the most popular items include the mixed berry scones, crepes, Kale Strawberry Salad, Edamame Bean Salad, Ty’s Omelet, and the classic turkey sandwich.

“Customers also love our soup,” she added.

All their soups are homemade from scratch. They can be fairly exotic and surprisingly delicious. They only have one kind of soup a day, since they are limited by the fact that they make them by hand, from scratch. Each day is a different soup.

The strawberry lemonade is a favorite menu item as well, Kazic said. Unlike so many other strawberry lemonade drinks, Wild Strawberry Café doesn’t add any sugar to their recipe. They puree the strawberries, let them juice, and then add water.

“People really seem to like it,” Kazic  said.

There is no added sugar in their organic iced tea either, or many of the other items on the menu.

The café also sometimes holds community events, exercise classes or charity fundraisers.

The café will be hosting a Moroccan themed party tomorrow, Sept. 22, to raise funds for an event for some special little girls at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

The proceeds will go toward a Just a Little Cloth event scheduled for young girls on the CHOC oncology floor later this year.

It will be an exotic and festive adults-only party from 6 to 10 p.m.

The café is located at 240 Newport Center Dr., Suite 100. For more information or to buy tickets to the Moroccan party, visit wildstrawberrycafe.com. 

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