Chef Justin Perez is a patient and persistent man. And the Pacific Ocean is a rather moist environment. To say that Perez, who runs Restaurant O Catering, has been through the wringer is a gross understatement. You think your life is tough? Consider what Perez has been through over the past decade:

In 2003, his former restaurant, Buca in Campbell, came under legal attack from the Italian chain Buca di Beppo for purported trademark infringement. Rather than undergo a costly legal battle, Perez changed the name of his restaurant to Restaurant O. Two years later, a and bleeding woman ran to Perez’s garage, fleeing from an abusive husband. Perez and his wife called the police. In the months thereafter, the woman’s husband, his brother and another woman firebombed Perez’s home. The experience traumatized Perez and his wife. The police finally caught up with the bomb throwers, and one of them is in prison for life.

In order to keep a low-profile during the attacks, Perez closed his restaurant and operated a catering business. He re-opened Restaurant O in 2006 with a $30,000 remodel. That was after the deals to open a restaurant in Santana Row and the Hotel Los Gatos (where Dio Deka is now) fell through. A year after reopening, he learned that his landlord intended to sell the property for a senior-housing project. And just to keep things interesting, Perez also found out his best friend and director of operations had allegedly embezzled about $750,000 from the restaurant, putting him deep in debt and back taxes.

And yet, Perez has maintained his sense of humor and humility. “It’s been one thing after another,” he said. “You have to laugh.”
After losing his restaurant in Campbell, he resumed catering operations, this time working out of a huge space at La Hacienda in Monte Sereno. But all the while, Perez wanted to get back into a restaurant of his own.

He is about to open a bigger Restaurant O in January. The restaurant occupies what was Wilson’s Bakery on Homestead Road. Of course, the road to opening night has been filled with potholes and near collisions. A dispute with the city of Santa Clara over a lowly grease trap added a year to project. Last week, Perez was hoping to open in November, but then city officials told him the grade of his parking lot was off a few degrees. That means he has to rip it up and pave it over again. He remains committed to the January opening. The 6,000-square-foot, 150-seat restaurant will offer a mid-priced menu, a full bar, offsite wine sales and a take-out pastry counter.

“We’re absolutely for sure going to open in January,” he said.

If a meteor plummets from the sky and strikes the restaurant, I can imagine Perez wiping the dust from eyes, sighing deeply once or twice, then saying, “Oh well. Let’s move on to plan B.” But enough with the trials and tribulations. For God’s sake, God, or whoever throws one obstacle after another in front of Perez, lay off and let this man open his restaurant.