Mamma Drama in Windsor

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

What in the world is going on with Mamma Pigs? Since the Windsor barbecue restaurant’s July opening there’s been some serious Mamma drama. Over the weekend, however, a “New Ownership” sign went up on the smokehouse we may have a few more answers. Just leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way around this explanation… Mamma Pig Windsor interior

The short version is that Creative Consultant Gary Finnan, who helped to open the restaurant with the Bousquets, is now the sole proprietor. The Bousquets have left the smokehouse and aren’t part of the business any longer.

The longer version takes a bit more explanation...

Last spring restaurateurs Matthew and Bryan Bousquet quietly closed their Michelin-starred Windsor restaurant, Mirepoix, with plans to transform the critically-acclaimed but money-losing French restaurant into a barbecue, burgers and beer joint. In July, Mamma Pigs opened with plenty of fanfare, and seemingly solid ‘que with the help of Finnan and Matthew Riveras of Sonoma Essence LLC aka “The Piggy Pack”.

On the surface, things seemed to be going well until the Bousquets suddenly closed their second Windsor restaurant, Bistro M, just weeks after the Mamma Pigs opening. Citing refrigeration issues, there was no official word of the closing until a week or so after when several staffers leaked that they’d been unceremoniously axed and the mysterious refrigeration issues never got resolved.

Adding to the confusion, the couple went missing from the barbecue restaurant without explanation and a handful of cryptic Facebook posts citing family issues. Phone calls weren’t returned and the two had seemingly vanished without any forwarding address. Employees refused to say what was happening, and patrons were left scratching our heads.

In early September, word made it through the restaurant scene that Matthew had resurfaced in Napa (at Bistro Jeanty, which had been looking for a new exec chef since May) and Bryan was devoting more time to motherhood. Speculation about the couple’s departure was confirmed, while complaints about Mamma Pigs were stacking up as consistency and quality seemed to take a nosedive without the couple at the helm.

What only recently came to light, however, was that the Bousquets were merely tenants in the new barbecue spot hired as “hospitality consultants” with the possibility of becoming franchisees if the restaurant was successful.

The most recent twist in the saga is a “New Ownership” sign that went up in the last days of September. Finnan issued a press release explaining that he is now sole proprietor with the consulting support of Riveras. The two aim to get the restaurant back on track and continue to operate a spot for burgers, bacon, barbecue and beer in line with the original vision.

“We look forward to serving our community and building a brand that shares the bounty of Sonoma County,” said Finnan.

Whether the restaurant can hold onto the affection of locals is yet to be seen, but with the explosion of barbecue spots around Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, it’s clear that there’s a hunger for ‘que around these parts. Minus the mamma drama.

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. Blame it on food trucks and Thursday night market food vendors….. yeah that’s it.

  2. Wasn’t impressed on the two times I gave them chances, especially after the horrible food and service at Bistro M which they owned and run. Must have been a personal issue to cause them to run both places into the ground.
    I pity the investors.
    Waiting for 2 or 3 more Windsor place to fail, based on the ho-hum attitudes of serving barely passable food. But it seems that a big percentage of their patrons thing these places are all 5 star.

  3. The old owner was from South Carolina. Can’t blame this one on us.

  4. My wife and I ate at Moma Pig for the first time last Wednesday. The staff was friendly, atmosphere pleasant and good beer from Moonlight Brewing. The barbeque was average at best. The new owner should take a trip to Memphis Minnie’s in SF. If he could duplicate what Minnie’s does with their food he would have a line out the door.

  5. Gary,

    Good luck. I know you can make it work. Can’t wait to stop by to check it back out.

  6. Actually only partially true. We have a number of transplants here who grew up in BBQ culture and do a solid que. As someone who grew up in the missouri I know KC and Tennessee and I can say I haven’t had Truly mind-blowing que here but I have had really good que

  7. you californians cant even bbq anyway

  8. No wonder the food has been so god awful at Momma Pig’s. The chef ran away from Windsor to become a cook in Napa, and didn’t give anyone a clue as to what was going on. I have no respect for this blatant lack of integrity. Thanks, BiteClub, for clearing this up.

  9. Speaking of Dierks. Why does that place rock so hard? I had been craving the country benedict for months and went over Monday morning in a post regatta funk. Just spot on everything from service to food. Love them!

  10. The reason the best lunch places it make it is they serve breakfast or dinner, eggs are like .12 and wine is marked up at 280-320% profit margin. Dierks and Fremont Diner (just name a two) are how you can do lunch and have staying power.

  11. I ordered take out from Momma Pigs about one month ago. Ordered a brisket dinner, which came with beans and slaw and hush puppies…and cost about $15.00

    When I got home, without exaggeration, half of the meat was cold gelatinous fat and gristle! I actually took a picture of it! The beans were mediocre and there was no slaw and ONE hush-puppy…just one lonely hush-puppy as if they cost a million dollars each!

    Not only did Momma Pigs steal $15 from me that day, but they also stole my driving time from Healdsburg, and more importantly, turned my stomach about people who actually believe they can screw the public and get away with it.

    It was actually such a bad experience, that I will never consider going back to that building and business unless I see a year’s worth of public acclaim…nothing less…

  12. Still not clear if the actual food taste has changed. I tried it a few months back, but was hugely disappointed. If the food is different, I’ll be back! So.. is it?

  13. Still not clear if the actual food taste has changed. I tried it a few months back, but was hugely disappointed. If the food is different, I’ll be back! So.. is it?

  14. I can believe you even thought it was good early on. Best BBQ is Henweigh Cafe in Sebastopol

  15. This is hilarious! Will the special be “whiny pig” or “runaway bacon”? 😉

  16. I had wondered if there was drama going on. It seemed the yelp reviews were unfairly harsh and possibly aimed more at personal issues than at the quality of the food or service. I wrote a review to this effect, also including my honest opinions of the food and service. Someone in FLORIDA wrote me a sarcastic personal message in response to my review – it came out of left field and I was left wondering if indeed personal drama was causing people to not only write bad reviews, but also to send hate mail to supporters of the restaurant. Anyway, could everyone just calm down? It’s a BBQ restaurant with good food. Restaurants change all the time. Reviews become outdated. Get over yourselves. This is ridiculous small town drama.

  17. Windsor is a tough market. I am so glad we got out . My stress level and life is finally starting to return to normal. We paid a heavy price of starting our financial lives over.

  18. Mamma Drama Indeed. thank you to those that have supported us in these difficult times. It is hard enough to start a new business these days and the Mamma Drama was unexpected, however we have no choice but to soldier on with our team. Our intent has been to keep this situation contained as the drama runs so much deeper than is worth the effort. We simply wish to serve BBQ, Burgers, Bacon and Beer made with great Sonoma County produce to local Windsor families. We will be launching The Mamma Drama special on Friday…check out the pig board.

  19. Which is why i have an extraordinary amount of respect for chefs and restaurateurs who can make it work.

  20. i think that’s a very nice sentiment, Karen. I can only imagine the heartbreak of trying to run two restaurants, raise a family and face the pressures of financial instability on a daily basis. The Bousquets are very talented and the restaurant biz is a brutal mistress.

    What I think is unfortunate is that whoever was in charge of Mamma Pigs let the whole thing become a strange drama because they weren’t telling anyone what was going on. Most of us in the media were pretty dumbfounded that the restaurant refused to return any phone calls to let people know considering the kind of media blitz they engendered when they opened. It was downright bizarre. I’ve never had that happen in the years I’ve been doing this. Most folks usually cop to the fact that they’re closing or moving on.

    It piqued me that I wrote a story praising the restaurant early on only to find out that the Bousquets had left the building without warning and the quality was suffering. That reflects badly both on them and me and isn’t fair to people who were expecting to find Matthew and Bryan in the kitchen. I suspect there may have been extenuating circumstances, but again, it’s just bad pr to let the rumor mill fly and not deal with the public perception of your business.

    The new owners did a good thing by clearing it up at this point, rather than let the whole drama continue. When dealing with the public, silence isn’t golden.

  21. Bryan and Matthew, we wish you luck in your new life and adventures. Your contribution to Windsor for 10 years will be missed, by those of us who always knew that we could come to you and you’d figure out a way to “provide”. Dispite your financial woe’s this past two years you gave to our community, schools, wine and food events where you always gave generously. Looking back it was self-sacrificing. Silence is golden sometimes, and I think this one will wash out without you or Matthew saying too much, there’s a time to speak and a time to be quiet. No matter what you say there will be those that will have their own version. A small town doesn’t need the fight. You’re smart to see that. Sorry that some people “forgot” so quickly how great you and your family are.

  22. Restaurants make between 3 and 6% on food sales if the Chef is any good, the best run shops might approach double digits. it takes a lot of 10 dollar sandwiches to make money when you are only making 60 cents a sammy. In this area where costs of living/everything are so high they tend to go under over time. It’s a math equation that in the end usually equals zero.

  23. Life is simpler with Reggie Bacon.

  24. Food and service have declined consistently since my first visit a couple of days after opening. The last visit (#5) was the worst and kitchen and staff were totally out of synch. There were loud complaints from every group of diners. I will not return.

    I wish Matthew and Bryan all the best in their future endeavors. Trying to make a restaurant work during these economic times is a difficult thing and I am sure it will take them a very long time to recover. I am sure that Matthew will do a great job for Philip Jeanty.

  25. It’s actually not all that rare. there’s a well-known phenomenon called the “Michelin Curse” wherein a restaurant gets a bunch of critical acclaim, then has to hire more staff to accommodate all the influx, then either raises its prices to keep up with the staff or else starts to suffer because it can’t keep up.

    Matthew told me that the restaurant actually did suffer after the Michelin star, and that people stopped coming. Whether perception or reality, people just think they either can’t afford the place anymore or too many people are going.

    Barbecue is a more everyday kind of thing — where people come for lunch. Restaurants make more profit on cheap, everyday food than the really labor-intensive, anniversaries-only kind of stuff. So it makes total sense. It’s just unfortunate that the whole thing went down the way it did.

    I don’t look too kindly on restaurateurs who fail to return phone calls when there is a major kitchen change. People who are paying good money for their meals have a right to know if the chef has left the building. I’m glad to see that the owners have explained the situation.

  26. We knew the restaurant scene changed quickly around here but this is beyond all. One has to pay attention or miss the whole merry go round. Glad we have some one keeping her eyes open.
    I never did understand how one would give up Michelin star for a BBQ place… even if it was a top notch BBQ.

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