By Tim Tesconi
Honors and accolades continue to be heaped on Art Ibleto, the famed Pasta King who has made community service a way of life in his adopted Sonoma County.
Ibleto, who is 86, is an iconic Sonoma County businessman and farmer who has spread goodwill while dishing up his signature pasta and polenta dishes at the Sonoma County Fair, community events and the charitable dinners he hosts.
On Nov. 20, Ibleto was honored by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for being the driving force and key sponsor of “PastaPaloosa for Parks.” The benefit pasta dinner, prepared by the Pasta King and his crew, raised $47,000 for regional parks. The money will help make up for cuts in park funding because of budget reductions.
Earlier in November, Ibleto was honored as the 3rd Senatorial District’s “Small Business of the Year” in recognition of his longstanding support of the community and his steadfast commitment to customer service and business ethics. State Senator Mark Leno of California’s 3rd Senatorial District personally delivered the Senate resolution to Art at his Cotati home and business. Art said he was too busy making pasta and polenta for a benefit dinner to go to Sacramento to receive the award at ceremonies held at the State Capitol.
Leno’s Senate resolution said, in part, “Considering Sonoma County one of the most beautiful places in the world, Art Ibleto made it his home and, in true Italian tradition, found a place to people’s hearts by way of their appetites as his kitchen has always been a popular and welcoming place for families to gather.”
For his part, Art likes to say that being able to give back to others is part of what he considers a bella – beautiful – life.
“When you give, you receive back twofold,” Ibleto likes to say. And what better way to bring people together than over food, preferably good Italian food like pasta and polenta.
“Everyone in Sonoma County is my family,” Ibleto said after being recognized by the Sonoma County board of supervisors for his help in raising $47,000 for regional parks. He said his benefit dinners not only raise money for good causes but raise awareness about good, economically-priced food.
“My focus is teaching people how to eat healthy food,” Ibleto told supervisors.
Ibleto’s deep roots in Sonoma County agriculture, his philanthropy and commitment to building community have earned him many awards over the years including honoring citizen of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. He is perhaps the only Republican to be honored by the Democratic Central Committee.
Ibleto estimates that in the last year his benefit dinners have raised $147,000 for causes like the regional parks, agriculture education, farmland preservation and other good causes dear to his big heart.
In September, Art was honored by the Sonoma County Harvest Fair with the “Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture” Award. That award recognized Art’s colorful history in Sonoma County and his remarkable life on the land and his legacy of service to agriculture and the larger community.
Saralee McClelland Kunde, a director of the Harvest Fair, said it best in recognizing Ibleto with the “Lifetime Contribution Award”
“It is impossible to imagine Sonoma County without Art Ibleto whose wonderous personality and generosity have made our county a better and more interesting place to live. Art is a Sonoma County treasure,” said Saralee.
It’s been a long and colorful march for Ibleto who drifted into Petaluma 63 years ago as a penniless immigrant from war-torn Italy and, today, is one of Sonoma County’s most-beloved and revered citizens. He’s a bigger-than-life character whose outsized personality is matched only by the prodigious portions of pasta he serves.
Although known as the Pasta King, Ibleto is a man of many skills, boundless energy and keen intellect who epitomizes the self-made man. He has been or still is: a cow herder, Christmas tree farmer, butcher, pilot, mechanic, grape grower, vintner, opera singer, limousine driver, caterer and more. He does many of these jobs simultaneously, being everywhere and anywhere people converge, whether it’s the Sonoma County Fair, the Wednesday night market in downtown Santa Rosa or a charity fundraiser for a church or fire department. In between stints preparing and dishing up pasta, he oversees his 50 acre vineyard, meat cutting business and the various other ventures that have made him prosperous.
That self-made prosperity is now shared with the community that Ibleto loves - and feeds - on a daily basis.
“Art Ibleto has created an enduring legacy of community support through the generous contributions of numerous, culinary delights, time and financial support on behalf of numerous civic and charitable organizations and endeavors,” said Sen. Mark Leno’s Senate resolution commending the Pasta King for his caring ways as a businessman.