|Ibleto nabs first Golden Noodle Award
‘Pasta King’ hoping to produce own olive oil, pen his autobiography
Art Ibleto once lived for eight days in the dark with no food or water in order to avoid being caught by Germans during World War II. An active member of the underground movement against Bonito Mussolini, Ibleto says he’s endured experiences no one would believe, events that drove him to move far away from his hometown of Sesta Godano in Northern Italy and settle in Sonoma County.
Known around here as “The Pasta King,” Ibleto continues to cook his delicious homemade pasta, pesto, polenta and pizzas familiar to anyone who’s been to his Spaghetti Palace at the fair, or attended an event catered by the Pasta King. Because of his continued community involvement and donations to charity, he has recently been awarded by Santa Rosa City Council member Mike McGuire, the first ever Golden Noodle Award, an honor that started as a joke.
“I like to cook, and since we’d have parties all the time, I started making pasta, polenta, pesto…I was good,” says Ibleto on the beginnings of the Pasta King. “I was doing it for nothing, so I started charging. Before I know it I’m in a new business.”
Ibleto was doing much more before he began catering though. He was 22 years old when he landed in San Francisco with no relations, no job and barely any English, but as luck had it, a man he met on the boat ride here offered him a job with a friend in Petaluma, making his settlement in the county purely accidental.
“Since I came from Italy and landed in Sonoma County, I never moved,” he says of his 53-year residence at his place off of Stony Point Road. “There’s no question about it: Sonoma County is the best and most beautiful place in the country. When it comes to landscape, we really have everything you can dream of.”
Ibleto then opened a Christmas tree farm on his land as well and purchased one of the county’s oldest meat businesses; his brother-in-law (whom he calls “The Jerky King”) continues to run Angelo’s Meats in Petaluma 80 years since it opened. After his trees died of a disease one season, Ibleto turned his soil over, expanded into his neighbor’s yards after purchasing their land and began growing grapes for his winery Bella Sonoma. Next he wants to begin his own line of Olive Oil.
His popularity grew once he opened The Spaghetti Palace at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds nearly 40 years ago, and he expanded to catering because many patrons were impatient to wait for his food to come around only once a year.
“I do a lot of work, but I really enjoy it. Nobody can really take over for me, that’s why I try and come in at least once every day,” he says, attributing his flavor to using all natural, local ingredients. “I want people to eat what I like to eat.”
Art’s Place, which is situated next to Reading Cinemas, opened in February of this year and has been a huge success so far. A family business, he runs it with the help of his wife of 62 years, Victoria, and daughter, Annette.
“We’re doing pretty well. Last Saturday, the line out the door was like it is at the fair. People from Rohnert Park like to come in and thank me for being here.”
Before Art’s Place, he co-owned Season’s Sports Bar, which was later closed because of a former owner’s dishonesty. With the hopes of owning a full-time restaurant large in his mind, Art and another business partner kept the building and took over. He also started the North Bay Italian Choir 26 years ago and claims he can sing a great baritone.
Art Ibleto, even with all of his hobbies and businesses, still finds time to use his craft to raise money for local animal shelters, school events, and those in need. He once raised more than $50,000 for the county regional parks when their budget was threatened and donated money to rebuild the Santa Rosa Dog Rescue Shelter after it suffered a fire.
So what to do for a man who has done so much for his community? Create an award in his honor. On Dec. 10, Ilbeto was awarded the first ever Golden Noodle Award by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to commemorate his efforts. Although he worked hard to escape the hardships of his old country, he still speaks fondly of Italy and features a photo of Sesta Godano on his menus at Art’s Place.
“I have an incredible life. And I enjoy it so much that I don’t have time to get old,” he says, admitting that he sometimes finds himself working 16 hour days without stopping; quite a task for a man of 86. “You can’t find time to die when you’re that busy.”
He speaks passionately of finishing a book about his life, one that will no doubt be full of vibrancy as it illustrates the life of a young Italian man who escaped the oppression of Mussolini and came to America to share his love for food with a county lucky enough to have him.