by John Stapleton
An oasis in the desert. That was the only concept Rand and Jeanna Del Cotto had when they set first started.
The original name was to be Papago Cantina, but by the time the Del Cottos opened in September 2007 the name had changed to Raceway Bar & Grill. As it happened during construction, a looky loo came through the doors and saw a “Raceway” sign hanging from the exposed truss and said the word out loud. Rand overheard it, considered it, and told his wife he liked the idea of going with it.
“There was no real concept going in,” Rand says. “Everything just came to be by chance. All we knew is we wanted to be out here in the middle of the desert and have a place where people could go.”
The name Raceway set a theme, and the homage to the American road trip was started. Old signs and vintage license plates cover the walls. Your eyes can wander for hours catching hidden gems.
“It just started happening with friends and customers. They’d bring in a license and we’d hang it,” Rand says.
Jeanna runs the restaurant. She says Raceway was established as an escape from the corporate world where she had a career; another goal was to provide employment opportunities for the community.
“Our staff has always been with us through thick and thin, they really make us who we are,” Jeanna says.
The Del Cottos originally hail from Chicago and brought that style of food with them. In the development stage there were considerations for being a traditional diner, but they figured it just wouldn’t work because of their location. The couple went with a menu that was a cross between popular Southwestern items like tacos and jalapeno poppers to their homestyle pizza and meatballs.
Because of its location and vibe, Raceway became a favorite getaway place to host bands and small car shows.
Then came the pandemic. For about two months, the Del Cottos made the decision to completely shut down as to-go orders were not enough to keep the staff busy. When they were able to open doors again, they went with a reduced menu and reduced hours.
“It reminded us a lot of when we first opened,” Jeanna says. “We opened right when the housing market crashed. It had the same feel of not knowing what was going to happen next.”
Jeanna says her first goal was to keep everyone safe — her staff and the patrons who frequented the bar and grill over the years. The business was able to stay afloat with the help of the county programs and is now thriving again because of the customers.
“We are very grateful for our neighbors and the winter visitors,” Jeanna says. “Everyone has adjusted to the hours and our staff is as busy as ever.”
She says they are looking into bringing in weekly events again and hoping for bigger events in the fall, when the weather cools down again. Most importantly, Jeanna alerts others: be on the lookout for the return of their “world famous” meatballs.
Raceway Bar & Grill
Open 11 a.m.;
49237 W. Papago Road, Suite 7, Maricopa