New owner of Takanami might be Iowa City’s youngest restaurateur

Valentina Carrero is the new owner of Takanami restaurant at 219 Iowa Ave. in downtown Iowa City — photo by Frankie Schneckloth

Recent University of Iowa graduate, Valentina Carrero, 22, is Iowa City’s newest — and maybe youngest — restaurateur. Just after graduation ceremonies wrapped, Carrero inked the deal with Etre Restaurant Group to purchase downtown Iowa City sushi restaurant, Takanami.

The recent Iowa alum figured she would be a social worker after she finished school in May, but when previous owner George Etre proposed the idea of the sale, it was an opportunity Carrero couldn’t pass up. Throughout her college career, Carrero worked for the Etres as a manager at three of their downtown restaurants — Takanami, el Patrón and Formosa — learning the ins-and-outs of restaurant life, even training with chefs over the last year to learn to make sushi.

The Iowa Avenue restaurant was formerly owned by brothers George and David Etre. As of May 29, 2018 Takanami is officially under Carrero’s leadership, though George continues to lend a helping hand as needed as Carrero begins her new role.

“George has basically been my mentor for the past few years. He still comes around and helps with minor things, but now it’s basically just me. He really wants to see young people in the game and see something fresh, something different,” Carrero said.

No major staffing changes were made following the sale, however Carrero did make a few other changes in her first few days that customers may or may not have observed.

“I changed the menu right when I took over; I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but we changed the happy hour, the food menu, the drink menu; the specials are all different and I added some rolls and entrees,” explained Carrero.

In addition to menu changes, Carrero has removed the teppan tables from the back room of the restaurant in hopes of refurnishing the space to function as a bar and lounge. With a separate entrance, the lounge will open after the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. and will serve Japanese whiskies, cocktails and local beers until bar close at 2 a.m.

The lounge bar will open to the public on July 13, but until then, diners can get their fill on fresh sushi, entrees and drinks in the restaurant’s original dining room.