Chef Eric Samaniego Leaves the Little Sparrow Nest

The downton Santa Ana favorite is changing its days of operation as well as its chef—and bringing lunch back

I was just about to report on some changes at Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana—new days of operation, Sunday brunch, and the resumption of lunch service. But it turns out there’s even more: Chef Eric Samaniego and the restaurant have parted ways.

Some chef moves don’t surprise restaurant-watchers. This is not one of those. Among Orange County’s most respected restaurants, under Samaniego’s leadership Little Sparrow gleaned accolades from all corners, including being selected as Orange Coast’s 2014 restaurant of the year and participating in the Tom Colicchio-hosted “Best New Restaurant” competition on Bravo TV.

Samaniego, whose wife is expecting their third child in a few weeks, says of the change, “I’m looking forward to spending time with my family. Little Sparrow will always have a special place in my heart.”

When asked for information about Samaniego’s departure, all that Little Sparrow owners—husband and wife Bruce Marsh and Naseem Aflakian, and business partner Jenny Le—would say is the following:

“[We] founded Little Sparrow with the vision of being a great, affordable, neighborhood restaurant. We are excited to return to that vision. The experience, menu, and community outreach that make Little Sparrow what it is have always been a part of the dream of very motivated and actively involved restaurateurs.”

They add that current sous chef Melissa Ortiz will be stepping up to run the Little Sparrow kitchen temporarily. Now, about that other news: Starting this week, Little Sparrow will be open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner, plus brunch on Sunday. And, next week, lunch returns Wednesday through Saturday—hours still being decided.

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