What's left to do after you've run a stellar restaurant chain like Il Fornaio? Why not open a restaurant near your home that, as Larry Mindel puts it, "gets to the very heart of what Italian cooking and hospitality are about." Which sums up Poggio Trattoria, located just steps away from his Sausalito, CA, residence. How much does this Toledo, OH-born 1959 U. of Michigan grad know about Italian restaurants? Well, he's run 30 of them in his career, and he's the first person of non-Italian descent to be awarded the Caterina de Medici Medal by the Italian government, recognizing his excellence in the preservation of Italian heritage outside of Italy.
Marin County has been the big weather story this month. But all the rain has really made your garden out back look lush.
Yes, but it always does. It used to be the site of Sausalito Springs Watercress Gardens.
It's about 50 yards wide by 50 feet long. Everything in there is organic. We pump spring-fed well water up to the top and it comes down in a little stream, just like they do in the terraced hillside vineyards in Italy.
Sweet. So what do you grow?
Watercress, peppercress, baby chicories, radicchio, black Tuscan kale and plenty more.
How do you use all this?
It's mostly for the restaurant. A couple of folks from Poggio's kitchen pick something every day, then build new dishes.
This refrigerator is packed. You must eat at home a lot.
Actually, we don't eat here at all, except on Sundays.
What about the other days?
We have our meals in the restaurants Monday through Saturday, either at Il Fornaio, where my office is, or at Poggio, which we can walk to.
That's quite a setup.
It's kind of a perfect life when a restaurant guy can walk to his two favorite restaurants every day.
What about breakfast?
I have it at Poggio every morning. They make a new batch of stone ground oatmeal every 20 minutes, so I have that, a cappuccino and fresh-squeezed OJ.
What's the routine on Sundays?
In the winter, my youngest daughter, who's in law school at Hastings over at UC Berkeley, comes home and eats with us.
What's the meal?
My wife will grill a nice piece of salmon and pick whatever she can from the garden. Plus some California or Italian white wine. We keep that wine in a separate fridge downstairs.
And in summer?
My five kids, and my four grandsons, come over. We barbecue.
I handle the grill, usually making baby back ribs or chicken. I eat Italian food Monday through Saturday, so Sunday is a day of rest for my palate.
That must be where all the red wine in your wine cellar comes in.
It does. I've run into some nice red wines over the years.
Do you travel much to Italy?
I've gone every year for more than 30 years. A good year is one trip, a great year is two trips. I'm always so happy when the plane lands in Italy.
Well, it must be quite a place if you can be even happier there than you must be here.
Bottled Water (both sparkling and still)
PHOTOGRAPHY: DARCY PADILLA / REDUX PLUS