From Graziano Perozzi
Welcome to my restaurant! I’m really happy to see you here.
People often ask, “Who is Graziano and where’s he from, anyway?” So I thought I’d share a little bit about myself.
My real base knowledge of cooking came from the years I spent watching and helping my mother cook in our kitchen in a little village in Italy. At age 7, I played in the flour while Mamma created her heavenly gnocchi. When I was 14, I had a very vivid dream of San Francisco; it was clear to me that I would be there someday. Soon after, I went to hotel school in Italy where I learned everything from concierge business to waiting and bussing tables, bartending and cooking.
Following this, at age 16, I started as a waiter for a big restaurant where I frequently cooked for the whole crew. It was around this time when I served Gary Cooper (I thought he was the tallest man in the world!) and got kind compliments. I then took a job as a dishwasher and food prep guy (peeling potatoes, etc.) at a London club that catered to the elite —my main goal being to learn the English language. I became good friends with the chef and created one of my first original dishes for him. He had me serve my special prawns with sherry and mushroom cream sauce to Sean Conner--I didn’t have a clue who he was--and, soon after, Sean started his career as the famous 007.
In the ensuing years I studied in the culinary academies of Sardinia, Canterbury and Switzerland. I’ve always had a basic appreciation for Contadina style dishes while adding my own special “tocco” (touch). I like the presentation on the plates to be beautiful with garnishes that have a purpose.
At 25 I began the Bermuda and Bahamas phase of my cooking career--an experience that only after the fact seems bigger than life. I worked in big nightclubs where I was first introduced to cooking in an “open kitchen” where the patrons could view all the meal preparations. Over the years I was requested to serve many late night “Graziano Spaghetti” meals to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shelly Winters, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Shirley Maclaine and also cooked for Sidney Portier, Ed Sullivan and Betty Davis. Again, I had no idea who they were, and that’s exactly why they hung out in these then undiscovered place--no one fussed over them. I was very fortunate to have the privilege of meeting many great artists from around the world. It was during this time I met and became friends with Benini (my walls at home and here are graced with many of his fine paintings).
In 1969 I came to the U.S. and helped open a restaurant in Oakland called Mirabeau. Two years later when the head chef of Guido’s in San Rafael became ill, the owner asked me to fill in for him. The restaurant had only about 10 tables. After less than a month word was out about this new chef who served great Italian food with fair; in no time there were as many as 30 people in line out the door every night waiting for tables. I was finally convinced that I should have a restaurant of my own.
The first time I saw Sonoma County it reminded me of Italy! I chose to move to Petaluma because it was quaint and provincial with a personal “villiage” atmosphere. Twenty-seven years later, I’m still here with my two daughters and grandchildren by my side. My mother is still in my heart and seems to still guide and influence my creations to this day. I guess you can tell by now that I love cooking. I love sharing good food and watching the pleasure it brings my customers. It seems to be the perfect healing anecdote for stress. It is our goal that when you leave Graziano’s you will have a smile on your face. Mangia, arrivederci a presto!