I could count on one hand the number of family and friends whose voices I could recognize in a crowd. Paul Ratto’s is one of them. That loud, raspy, yet bubbly voice resembles something off the food network. When Paul is in a room you tend to know it.
In this highlight of our Chef’s Series, we want to give a shout-out to Paul and how his culinary prowess started at a very young age. Being the baby of the family with a decent age gap between himself and his siblings he said he spent many days at his Nonna Lena’s house which led to many hours in the kitchen. His grandmother was one of 6 children and full disclosure; she was also sister to my grandfather, Ray Coldani. As an Italian family that still has a large reunion every two years, there are some fantastic recipes that come out of this group. A few years back we even compiled a family reunion cookbook. In typical Italian fashion, the arguments started coming out so it was published with 4-5 versions of the “Great Nonna’s Pasta Sauce” recipe; all very close but with small variations. Paul said his earliest memories of cooking began around hunting seasons. He would get to clean all of the doves shot in September and prep them for polenta and gravy recipes. Cheap labor or early preparation for butcher chef? Regardless, Paul picked up a knack for flavor combinations and learned to appreciate fresh quality ingredients. Today they call it Farm to Fork but that has always been normal cooking for Italian families in the valley. With an abundance of fresh produce grown in San Joaquin Valley, there has always been trading, bartering, or stealing from neighbors. I guess it's more like borrowing without intent to return. Let’s just say when your neighbor is growing 150 acres of onions you likely won’t be buying any onions that year. When my family started growing olives Paul immersed himself in our early years of olive processing. He always says that the flavor added to dishes, from our regular extra virgin olive oils to our fresh crushed flavored oils, is just something that can’t be duplicated with lower-quality ingredients.
Paul has had years of experience starting with stints in Italy and France learning culinary techniques then running Paul’s Wine Line, owner/chef of a Sacramento midtown restaurant, and countless private catering jobs. Today, Paul has started Heritage Dining and Provisions located at the Waterloo Gun & Bocce Club in Stockton. Paul has always been a great supporter of Calivirgin olive oils and a great advocate for the quality oils we aim to produce. Paul includes our oils in countless of his dishes but he has shared a quick and easy Salsa Verde recipe highlighting two of our oils. Reading this recipe makes me want to pick up a skirt steak and throw it over an open flame immediately. Visit Heritage Dining and Provisions to check out how these meals come together. If you don’t see Pauly, you most definitely will hear him doing his thing from back in the kitchen.