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Talia Schlau serves smiles at Quinua Cocina Peruana in Petaluma

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Server Spotlight is a new regular highlight of the people who make our restaurant experience memborable.

Petaluma is blessed with everything from wonderful weather to fantastic food, but it is the people who really make our community character. In restaurants, no matter how great the food or spectacular the view, it takes great servers to elevate a meal.

Great service can overcome a mediocre menu, but this writer will not return to a restaurant, no matter how fabulous, if the service leaves the experience flat. Petaluma is packed with plenty of places that offer both incredible flavors and service with a smile.

As a community, we also need to make a conscious effort to tip appropriately. It is not unusual for us to tip in excess of 25 percent because we want to do our part to make sure these folks not only know that they are appreciated, but can also afford to stick around in Petaluma. Once these servers can no longer afford to live and work in Petaluma, our dining scene will cease to exist as we know it.

Talia Schlau is the main server at Quinua Cocina Peruana. We love Quinua’s food and from day one, owner Juan Guitierrez has embraced the Petaluma way when it comes to running his restaurant. When choosing where to dine out, it is not unusual for us to pick Quinua specifically so we can see Juan and Talia.

Talia’s family is originally from Israel, however she was born in Southern California and moved to Petaluma with her family when she was 2 years old. She graduated from Casa Grande High School in 2012.

Talia joined Quinua just as they were opening up. It was the unique and authentic cuisine that first drew her in.

“I had never had Peruvian food prior to working here,” says Talia. “My taste buds have now completely changed. I love the spices and different flavors.” Mauro Gutierrez was a chef in Peru for over 35 years before moving to the U.S. to help son Juan open his restaurant. “Juan and Mauro are another reason I love this restaurant,” says Talia. “Their pride and dedication to their culture is beautiful and inspiring. They treat me like family.”

Talia’s favorite dish at Quinua is the Lomo Saltado, which is traditional Peruvian stir fry, of sorts, served with French fries and fried rice. Along with mouthwatering meat dishes, Quinua, and Peruvian cuisine in general, is known for seafood, which won them the honorable mention in the 2018 Petaluma People’s Choice awards, second only to The Shuckery for best seafood in town. Talia’s favorite sea fare? The Escabeche de Pescado.

“The fresh fillet of red snapper is fried and then sautéed with onions and Peruvian yellow peppers,” explains Talia. “It is then perfectly paired with sweet potato and rice.”

A favorite among the industry, Brixx Pizzeria is Talia’s favorite place to dine when not at Quinua. “Their great food and extensive wine list keep me going back weekly,” says Talia.

In her free time, Talia enjoys nature photography, traveling and chasing sunsets. “I literally try to see at least three sunsets a week,” she says.

Servers have a tough job, but Talia is a particularly understanding person so had a hard time coming up with customer pet peeves. That being said, there are a few no-no’s when it comes to dining out that everyone should know by now.

Server Spotlight is a new regular highlight of the people who make our restaurant experience memborable.

First off, tip, and tip well. If you have a problem with your meal, discuss it with the owner, do not take it out on the server. Second, show up on time for your reservation. Being even five minutes late may not seem like much, but it can have a ripple effect on the rest of the night. Finally, be polite. Do not yell across the dining room in order to get the server’s attention.

Talia’s most memorable work days take place at festivals, like the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival and Taste of Sonoma.

“Being able to share our restaurant with the public, as opposed to them coming to us, is an exciting way to share our food with people who may not have known we exist and may not have tried Peruvian food before,” says Talia. “Ultimately, every day is a new experience and I love every minute working for Quinua and serving my hometown customers.”