Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Brant Sarber (1959-2022)

Submitted by the family

Renowned Local Restaurateur Brant Sarber

Brant Sarber — founder and owner of two beloved local restaurants, Island Pasta and Costa Azul — died peacefully on February 24 at his long-time home in Coronado. Two days shy of his birthday, Brant would have been 63 years old. The Sarber family wants to express our deepest appreciation to the outpouring of support from the community at this unexpected tragedy.

Brant’s warmth and compassion was palpable to anyone who knew him, and especially abundant to those who just met him. His infectious smile and laugh, quick wit and charm inspired those around him to be better people. The proverbial local, Brant never left Coronado and always lived within four blocks of his childhood home on Tolita and the Pacific Ocean. He was a unique and caring individual who touched the lives of all who knew him as he forged his frequent, daily circular paths between restaurants, sharing his broad smile, generosity, and warm-hearted waves with all who he came into contact.

Brant started working at the iconic Coronado Chart House at 14 years old, working his way up from busboy to become a popular bartender, where he held court and hosted his informal comedy routines for thousands of people over many years, all whom he called his friends from their first meeting. His dream of opening his own restaurant came true in 1994, when he retrofitted the Oriental Arts at the corner of Loma and Orange into a pasta and pizza eatery, infusing his energy into creating a meeting place where “everyone knows your name.” For those of us who knew his love of a deal, Brant took advantage of the remodeling of the Coronado High School gym, repurposing the wooden floors into what became the horseshoe bar and a place for strangers to become friends. Officially opened on the 4th of July weekend, Island Pasta’s homemade comfort food and friendly atmosphere was a big hit from the start, serving fresh, homemade pastas and thin crust pizzas. Brant was steeped in the Sarber family’s SEAL Team history and BUD’s trainees immediately took advantage of his first marketing idea for an “all you can eat, carbo-loading pasta” for anyone in the Navy. The success of Island Pasta laid the groundwork for Brant to start to incubate a bigger vision, and within five years, he embarked on his next goal of securing a larger restaurant close to Island Pasta.

Long-time Coronadans will remember Krishna Mulvaney’s, (Captain Jack’s and then briefly Cecil’s) at 1031 Orange Ave. When the large space became available to lease in 1998, Brant jumped on it with the excitement of a billionaire lottery winner and set to the work of seeing his phoenix rise out of the prior restaurants’ kitschy ashes. The family marveled at Brant’s latent interior designer skills, blending frugality with lighting, fabrics, and colors with nods to local centric, coastal touches. Auctions, trips to Mexico and meetings with craftsmen pollinated his vision of creating a Mexican style eatery that could accommodate large families and gatherings with ample room that allowed him to hearken back to his Chart House roots by installing the biggest bar he could find. The term “one mans trash is another man’s treasure” came true frequently for Brant, as he plucked two massive bars from a closed La Jolla eatery, brought in colorful surfboards from Island Surf, designed blue chandelier lights with a Tijuana glass blower and sourced wooden chairs from Rosarito Beach. One of the hardest working people in town, Brant committed countless hours of sweat equity and flexed his entrepreneurial skills by making his dream slowly turn into a reality, opening Costa Azul in January of 1999. The casual Mexican restaurant quickly became one of Coronado’s most popular meeting places, with its chameleon quality appealing to all ages and types during all hours of the day and night. Families grew up here, chance connections turned into marriages, musicians got their start and the glue that seals a community’s soul by virtue of a place was born.

Brant emotionally connected with people he met in an authentic, witty manner and he treated everyone with kindness — from his customers, employees, contractors, city permitting, police and local civic organizations —- all becoming an extended family that were not necessarily blood relatives and that kept growing exponentially over the years. Brant’s popularity was truly at the heart of his restaurants’ success, and he worked hard to infuse his kindness philosophy into his employees. He mentored hundreds of Coronado kids by offering jobs at both of his restaurants and was one of the first businesses to invite students from the Special Education program at CHS to work, giving them the gift of self-confidence.

Carol, Emily and Brant Sarber.

While he loved his daily routine at both restaurants, the center of his heart was his immediate family, enjoying constant laughter, sarcastic monologues, and fun vacation planning where everyone else craved an invite. Not surprising, Brant met Carol, his wife, while holding court at the Chart House, and they married in 1994. Both were blessed with the news and then birth of their beloved daughter Emily in 1999. Brant’s business empire evolved into a family affair, with wife Carol managing the finances and behind-the-scenes duties, Kathy Bryne, Carol’s sister, running the day-to-day of Island Pasta, and Emily, his daughter, growing up in the restaurant business, starting as a baby strapped to Brant’s chest in the early years to becoming a waitress and hostess, graduating to creatively attempting to assist Brant as he curated his social media brand to attract customers to both restaurants on Coronado Happenings.

Brant always considered himself lucky to grow up in Coronado in the 1960s and ’70s — the sleepy island was idyllic, with a Norman Rockwellian ambiance that instilled a sense of pride in our country and that cemented the importance of close-knit families. Brant’s love of the water started at an early age, with surfing, long days hanging at the beach and boating at the Coronado Yacht Club being some of his favorite hobbies. The Sarbers were (and still are today) surrounded by thousands of lifetime friendships, many who shared similarly aged kids, which meant long summers at the Hotel Del Beach and Tennis Club, backyard BBQs, little league, pop warner, and then as Brant got older, a lot of freedom for teenagers on the loose. He loved to talk about walking up to Free Brothers Market for 25 cent hotdogs or hiding in the dunes during beach PE. During high school lunches, Brant would bring his friends over on Monday to have left-over “Sarber tacos” from Sunday night, showing an early interest in cooking and entertaining his friends, even when it wasn’t cool.

Brant was the second son of John and Phyllis Sarber. Brant leaves on this Earth his wife Carol, daughter Emily, and Carol’s sister Kathy Byrne, older brother Kurt, his son Michael, and younger sisters Kelly, with daughter McKenzy, and Molly, with husband Justin, and their daughters Grayson and Riley.

Brant constantly showed those around him unconditional love, unparalleled kindness, and genuine and complete care. He truly lived every day to the absolute fullest and enjoyed everything our Village has to offer, making sure to drive by the beach on his golf cart to check out the surf or stop by to visit his Mom, Phyl, on his way to and from home. The Sarber family invites those who choose to remember Brant’s life to spend time with their families doing things they love, take a walk on our gorgeous beach, and maybe share a funny story or two about his legacy. In lieu of flowers or donations, please come visit us at Costa Azul and Island Pasta often, as Brant’s restaurant empire will continue to spread love, tasty food, and lots of fun to all who love Coronado and share the Sarber’s sense of the importance of community.


Submitted by the family


Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]