Monday, January 23rd, 2012
From the window of Canevari’s Ravioli Factory and Deli, Ed Canevari has watched the history of Santa Rosa unfold over three generations.
But after decades of pounding dough and breathing flour in the ravioli room of his family business he’s ready to pass on the torch. “I need some new blood,” he said. “We want to get back to the level of energy and service we had 20 years ago.”
Now in his 70’s, the local icon is turning over management of the historic italian-American business to Michael Coutre, a local investor who hopes breathe new life into the nearly 100-year-old businesses. His own kids, he claims, aren’t interested in the grinding work of the family factory.
Growing up in the two-bedroom house behind the Lewis Road business, Canevari had a front seat to the development of Santa Rosa — from fields to, well, strip malls and subdivisions. He spins tales of war prisoners working the hop fields off Chanate Road, spins yarns about the humble beginnings of Charlie Traverso (a friend of his dad’s) and will give you an earful about some of the city’s seamier moments (if he thinks you deserve to hear them.) Mention any local luminary of his generation, and his face is an instant read on whether they’re a paisono. Or not.
Canevari also loves to show newcomers a grainy black and white picture on the wall of he and his father. Just 18-months old, he’s dressed in a white apron and hat miming his father, Attillio. “I always liked to copy him,” said Canevari.
That kind of local history can’t be bought for any price. Which is why Coutre isn’t planning on revamping the closely-held traditions of the Canevari’s operation. “We are custodians of a legacy,” said Coutre, who was persistent in his desire to work with Canevari, despite a number of brush-offs by the septugenarian. “Ed has entrusted his lifetime of work to us. Why go in and change that?”
To help with the plan, Coutre hired two hospitality veterans — South Bay restaurant GM John Foss, and assistant Foppiano winemaker and budding pastry chef Chris Bertsche — to start learning the business from Canevari and his staff and provide extra manpower in the last several months. Moving forward, he plans to ramp up ravioli-making and get the products back in local stores (currently they are only available at the deli). Staff will also be offering more catering services and Coutre hopes to add ready-made dinner offerings and authentic Italian staples as part of the deli’s offerings.
But don’t expect the senior Canevari to fade into history. He’s retained ownership of the shop, and as keeper of the family recipes, he’s adamant that the newcomers do things the right way — his father’s way — using fresh, local ingredients. Pointing to his family name on the sign outside the factory, he said, “That’s always going to be my named on the sign up there.”