Raffaele and Laura Petrazzuolo, owners of Sapori
Good food has a way of uniting people - blending lives together through a myriad of ingredients, flavors and shared taste. A meal amongst friends and loved ones is a time when memories are made, celebrations are had and when love is shared. Diners in Coronado have probably already figured out that great meals abound at Sapori, a quaint Italian restaurant that may be small in stature but is big on taste. But it’s perhaps the story behind this local gem that makes it so special. It’s a love story really, 32 years in the making.
Laura and Raffaele Petrazzuolo first met in Jersey Island, the largest of the Channel Islands located between England and France while working together. He was a waiter from Naples, Italy. She was a chef from England. Raffaele had eyes set on Laura and had planned to ask her out. But there was just one problem.
“He didn’t speak English when we first met,” recalls Laura.
Raffaele had to ask an Italian waiter the proper way to ask a girl out for a date in English and ended up writing it down for Laura. She agreed and the pair embarked on what would be the first of many adventures together.
Raffeale remembers that first day fondly, describing it as “fantastic.” Laura however, remembers it a bit differently.
“It was a disaster!” she chuckles. “I kept asking him ‘Do you speak English?’”
But Raffaele knew a good thing when he saw it.
“It was right from the start. When you like someone, you know. The language doesn’t matter.”
And so it began. The couple continued working together and Raffaele continued his coursework for his five year management program (and learned English). Raffaele and Laura traveled the world together, working in various restaurants, hotels, an opera house and even on cruise lines including the Royal Viking Sun and the Queen Elizabeth 2. In 1985, Laura traveled to Sydney, Australia for vacation and a year later, the couple settled there. Raffaele opened his first restaurant in Sydney when he was 22 years old – an espresso bar – and has owned five restaurants since.
For Raffaele, making the transition from restaurant employee to restaurant owner was an easy transition.
“You acquire confidence over time,” he says. “You live and learn, so to speak, and watch how others have done things.”
During their time in Sydney, the couple had two daughters, Michela and Nicole, now 17 and 15. The girls practically grew up in the restaurant business, for them it was their second home. Michela, the couple’s oldest, loves to make pastries and desserts, following in her mother’s footsteps. Nicole however, wants to choose a different career path.
In 2008, a business opportunity led the family to Coronado. Raffaele and Laura fell in love with the island and decided to take a leap of faith and relocate after spending 22 years in Sydney. At first, Raffaele split his time between Coronado and Sydney while he was managing his restaurants, but after some time sold them, and about a year after moving to Coronado, the couple opened Sapori.
It was a relatively smooth transition for the family and they quickly settled in and fell in love with their new home. Laura recalls feeling a bit nervous for her two daughters, then 12 and 10, who were for the first time in their lives the new girls. And with Coronado being the large military community that it is, the girls were welcomed with open arms and were first approached and befriended by some fellow classmates, who happened to be military kids. After all, they know what it’s like to be new in town.
“The girls came home that very first day and said ‘Mom, we’ve got this.’ They loved it.”
It’s somewhat of a rarity that the family gets to enjoy any downtime outside of being in the restaurant, but when they do, they enjoy spending time outdoors – biking, kayaking and enjoying their beautiful surroundings.
“We also do a lot of traveling,” says Laura. “Our families still live in Europe and Australia, so when we are able, we love to be able to travel and spend time with them.”
The restaurant business is certainly not for the faint of heart. The hours are demanding the work can be very physical. But the Petrazzuolos put their heart and soul into their work, and it shows. Raffaele recalls over the years hosting every kind of customer from businessmen to politicians in his restaurants.
“This is an industry that is part of everyone’s life,” he says. “Everyone loves good food and drink. And over time, you get to know your clientele and become friends with them.”
Sapori in Italian means “to taste” and the couple’s restaurant in Coronado is full of it. The menu features delicious authentic Italian fare such as baked Lasagna, Chicken Marsala and steamed mussels. Their wine list features Italian wines by Castellani. And their desserts – made to perfection – are the perfect ending to a great meal.
Periodically, Raffaele and Laura will host special events ranging from coffee classes to high teas to elegant wine dinners. On Tuesday, December 3, Sapori will host a wine dinner at 6 p.m. featuring Luca Forte and exclusive wines from Ceppaiano Winery, one of the five wineries of the Castellani family. The four-course menu will feature beef carpaccio, Fusilli Melanzana with baked eggplant and marinara and warm apple with almond galette. The cost is $75.
A traditional English afternoon Tea will be held on Sunday, December 8 at 4 p.m. The cost is $29 and includes a selection of fine teas along with finger sandwiches, Canapes and miniature desserts. Big hats are welcome!
Raffaele, who was raise in the coffee industry, often hosts coffee mornings during which he provides a presentation and then allows participants to brew their own espressos, lattes and more.
For more information on Sapori and for reservations for special events, visit www.SaporiSD.com. The restaurant is open Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Visit Sapori on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SaporiCoronado and follow on Twitter @SaporiCoronado.
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