Many moving tributes have been written since restaurateur Art Ibleto died at his Cotati home last month at the age of 94. The words are loving and proud, honoring a man with a remarkable life who took him from the battlefields of Italy, where as a teenager fought the Nazis and Fascists, to Wine Country, where he became a successful entrepreneur leading several food and wine companies.
Local distinctions are particularly deserved. The longtime Sonoma County resident was known as “The Pasta King” not only for his Italian-American cuisine, but also for his constant generosity to us through donations, free pasta, fundraisers. community funds and services to benefit everyone in need.
What better time then, to celebrate Ibleto’s magnanimous spirit by supporting his restaurant, Art’s Place in Rohnert Park. He opened the casual trattoria in 2013, but 2020 has been tough, with COVID closures, the dining room closed, a transition last month to eating out in a spacious new tent, and now meals. outdoors stop again with the stay-at-home order effective Saturday, December 12.
On the plus side, most of the Art’s Place menu is designed for take out. Warm Buffalo Chicken Wings dipped in a tangy homemade blue cheese dressing ($ 10); Old-fashioned potato skins loaded with cheddar, bacon, green onions, pico de gallo and sour cream ($ 8); Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo ($ 14) and pizzas like Verdura topped with tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, roasted garlic, onion, and artichoke (small $ 15, medium $ 18, large $ 22) – they all taste great, wrap well and reheat easily if necessary.
For those who knew Ibleto, pasta was really his calling after arriving in Petaluma in 1949. It seemed like everyone knew him, if only for his Spaghetti Half & Half which he served in his Spaghetti Palace on the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. The dish topped with half a serving of marinara and half a serving of pesto sauce ($ 15) has been a bestseller every year since the Palace launched in 1974.
So that’s what I ordered on a recent visit, raising my fork in greeting. The marinara is lightly seasoned and soothing, with nice chunks of fresh tomato, while the pesto is a knockout, the mashed pine nuts-parmesan-basil thick and glistening with olive oil. I could eat this flavored pesto by the spoonful, and I always have an extra small cup of it on the side (25 cents) for dipping chunks of buttery garlic bread that accompanies pasta dishes.
I can choose any sauce for another favorite, the appetizer of 10 fried cheese ravioli served over lettuce ($ 9), but the breaded and crunchy packages demand a classic marinara in this heartwarming way. Additionally, I had also received an order of Pesto Bites ($ 10), which is a mini pizza with a sparkling crust covered in mozzarella and rich pesto, cut into squares and served with a marinara dip.
The son of the Ibleto d’Art family, Mark Ibleto, his daughter Annette Ibleto Spohr and his brother Angelo Ibleto will not change any recipes after so many decades, which means that all the details, down to the salad dressings, will remain homemade.
So be sure to add a house salad to your pasta meal ($ 4 with a starter or $ 5 à la carte). Signature Italian, in particular, is excellent, thick and tangy, silky with olive oil and drizzled with fresh herbs. It browns what is already a nice mix of crunchy iceberg lettuce, grated carrots, red onions, cherry tomatoes, grated Jack cheese, pickled three bean salad and julienned salami.
The sandwiches are served with a choice of fries, chunks of minestrone, house salad or Caesar mixed with a raw egg vinaigrette, croutons and parmesan shavings. The fries, soup, and Caesar are all fine, but on another visit I went back to the house salad, alongside my meatball sandwich ($ 14). And what a great value I got, for the sweet French bun which is lightly toasted and stuffed with six dense and elastic meatballs flowered with earthy herbs, then topped with lots of mozzarella and cooked until that they melt. I always ask for an additional marinara (25 cents); coarse bread can dry out.
The restaurant has a wood-fired oven and the kitchen staff prepare the pies at this peak moment between crispy and charred. My go-to, the Italian sausage pizza, is finished with roasted red peppers and roasted garlic for a little sweetness ($ 20).
It’s hard to resist the chicken parmesan either ($ 18). A generous brisket is cooked with lots of marinara and mozzarella and served with penne in more marinara, sautéed carrots and squash, and garlic bread ($ 18). It’s the kind of dinner to snuggle up to a good movie and unwind.
After such hearty and traditional meals, it seems necessary to do away with old-fashioned tiramisu. This is exactly what I was hoping for: dry, classic lady’s finger cookies soaked in coffee, topped with mascarpone cheese and topped with whipped cream ($ 7). Of course, it’s homemade.
As the Ibleto family move forward into the next generation of Pasta King’s beloved story, it is heartwarming to know that his legacy will continue. Now let’s all toast at the King, with marinara and meatballs.
Carey Sweet is a food and food writer based in Sevastopol. Read his restaurant reviews every two weeks in Sonoma Life. Contact her at [email protected]