How many 93-year-olds do you know who still put in a 12-hour workday, 7 days a week and can, more often than not, be found at the helm of a 35-gallon marina saucepot stirring it to perfection?
Most in Sonoma County know of one person who fits the description—the Pasta King, Art Ibleto.
Ibleto is famous for his signature Italian cooking, generosity, and a resiliency that brought him safely through WWII. His recipe for success includes a blend of family, hard work, community service and common sense, with a dash of Italian charisma.
Ibleto said that he could have never dreamed that one day he would earn the title ‘Pasta King’. He admitted that as a boy, his dreams about what he wanted to be when he grew up were unlike that of most others.
“Truthfully,” he said. “I can’t answer that question because what I wanted was to be alive. I went through the war and that changed everything. We prayed that we would see the war end and so that we could get out of there.”
Ibleto was only 11 years old when dictator, Benito Mussolini launched Italy into World War II. When he was 17 years old, he joined the Italian Army, but later fled and joined the resistance.
Miraculously, he survived the war. He left Italy in 1949 to begin a new life in America. At just 22 years old he arrived in Sonoma County and got work in the vegetable fields at Ghirardelli Ranch in Petaluma. There, he met the farmer’s daughter, Vicki Ghirardelli, who eventually became his lifelong partner in life and in business.
In 1974, Ibleto established the Spaghetti Palace at the Sonoma County Fair and began to share his delicious Italian food with the masses. The successful venture laid the groundwork for the Ibletos to open a retail store on his home property and to start their catering venture.
Together, they built the Pasta King empire which includes a catering business, custom butcher shop, and restaurant called Art’s Place, which opened in 2013. Sadly, after 67 years of marriage, Art’s wife Vicki passed away this year at the age of 87.
“Family is what it’s all about,” Ibleto said.
Ibleto and his late wife Vicki’s children, Mark and Annette, are both fully involved in the family business.
Today, Pasta King Catering does corporate events, weddings, fundraisers, and all kinds of events in between including the Great Sonoma Crab & Wine Fest. No event is too large or small. Events range in size from 15 to 2,000 people and they also take orders for delivery. Whether you are planning a company lunch, picnic, meeting, or celebration, you can make a lasting impression with their deliciously authentic Italian cuisine.
The Pasta King uses only high-quality foods and the finest of ingredients and delivers time again on the promise of “giving the customer more than they expect”. With menu items like tri-tip panini, baked lasagna, chicken piccata, and linguine and clams, Art said he doesn’t have a favorite. He loves it all and so does Bill Sobranis, who gave Ibleto the title of Pasta King.
“Bill, who was a writer for the Argus-Courier, loved my food so much that every time he would eat my food, it was in the paper and he said that I was a king, the king of pasta.”
So, the Pasta King was born and to this day, works long hard hours to maintain his empire.
He wakes up each morning at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. and heads over to his commercial kitchen or pasta room and gets to work crafting his award-winning Italian dishes. Then he eats some of his own food, takes an afternoon rest, and by 6 p.m. he has been up for over 12 hours. Ibleto then heads to his restaurant and has his signature drink, a glass of 7 Up and water. The Pasta King greets people and socializes with restaurant patrons. Finally, he goes home to get some rest.
“When I come home from the restaurant I sit down in my chair, and I don’t think I last 10 minutes,” Ibleto said. “I wake up after 4 or 5 hours and then start thinking about what I need to do. Then I get up and do it all over again.”
Ibleto credits his rural upbringing in Sesta Godano, a small town along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, and his parent’s example for his strong work ethic.
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau Hall of Famer said that he remembers working in the fields with his parents, tending the family cattle, and even riding one of the cows as a kid. Surprisingly, the successful businessman only attended school until the fifth grade before going to work in the fields with his father and mother. Ibleto explained that, where he grew up, if you wanted to eat dinner you had to raise and harvest your own food.
Work is just what Ibelto has done his whole life and continues to do.
“I just turned 93,” Ibleto said proudly, “I don’t see any other 93-year-olds who can work every day like I do.”
Over the years, Ibleto has worked hard not for just for his family’s benefit, but also to benefit the entire Sonoma County community.
Ibleto has generously fed the community through countless tough times and has received many honors for his community involvement and civic spirit. Sonoma County Farm Bureau honored him with the Spirit of Sonoma County Award, the cities of Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park have named him an honorary citizen, he has received the Western Fairs Association Blue Ribbon Award for his service to the fair industry, and he was honored by the Sonoma County Harvest Fair with the “Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture” Award. Last year on the floor of the California Senate, Senator Mike McGuire honored him for his service to the community. The plaque he received hangs proudly at Art’s Place. Most recently, the Sonoma County Boy Scouts named him as one of their Distinguished Citizens.
Ibleto and his food are well-loved. It’s no wonder then that recently, he celebrated his 93rd birthday with not one, but two birthday parties.
“At the restaurant, everyone stood up and sang happy birthday to me,” Ibleto said. “It was very nice. I guess there must be something they like about me, more than just the food, but the food doesn’t hurt,” Art said, laughing. “Especially if we have spaghetti like we had last night.”
He said he is a Farm Bureau member because he’s been a farmer his whole life.
“On my 75 acres I started with potatoes then grew corn, Christmas trees, and when winegrapes started to take off, I planted the acreage to grapes,” Ibleto said.
Today, the vineyard is home to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah grapes that are used to make wine for Ibleto’s Bella Sonoma label, which he serves at his restaurant.
Ibleto, who considers Sonoma County one of the most beautiful places on earth, said that he hopes the next generation of farmers will keep Sonoma County agriculture strong.
The walls of his home on Stony Point Rd. are covered with black and white family photos, framed newspaper pages, photos of a smiling Ibleto with noteworthy politicians including Vice President Gore, Vice President Cheney, and President Ronald Regan, his family home in Italy, snapshots of children, and a large portrait of him and his wife sits proudly on the fireplace mantel. The photos depict a life well lived and a story that is woven into the fabric of Sonoma County.
“Life goes around a lot faster than you think,” Ibleto reflected. “Work hard and be honest and you’ve got it made.”
Visit Art’s Place, located at 563 Rohnert Park Expressway, Rohnert Park, Ca. 94928 Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. -9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. or call (707) 792-2712 to have your event catered.