For more than 100 years, the inimitable Canevari’s Deli and ravioli factory has been a delicious part of the fabric of Santa Rosa. Founded by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s, the family-run shop made hundreds of pounds of meat and cheese-filled pasta weekly. It remained in the Canevari family until 2012.
A decade ago, Lou Ciambrone (formerly of Sweet Lou’s in Cotati) took over the business and kept most of the menu the same — homemade ravioli, fresh cannoli and meaty sandwiches made fresh, hot and piled impossibly high. With a hearty handshake and booming voice, Lou is the embodiment of the warm goomba hospitality expected by longtime Canevari customers.
Now, a new generation is stepping in to expand the deli and continue its legacy. Lou’s son, Dominic Ciambrone, known internationally as the Shoe Surgeon, recently returned to Santa Rosa to inspire fresh ideas at the humble deli.
The well-known shoe designer makes bespoke kicks for celebrities and influencers at his Los Angeles loft (starting around $5,000 per pair). Though he’s embedded in the Los Angeles scene, Dominic grew up in Santa Rosa and worked at his parents’ restaurant as a kid.
“Hospitality is in my blood,” Dominic said while sitting inside the newly remodeled cafe in September. The interior has been refreshed with new counters and subway tiles along the back wall, but the historic black-and-white photos remain. “My dad has done an amazing job, but I want to give it new life and fresh energy. But the food (will) remain the same.”
The younger Ciambrone’s vision includes collaborations with big names including “Top Chef” Michael Voltaggio and celebrity chef Christian Petroni, who has appeared in “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network.
Dominic sees the connection between Santa Rosa and Guy Fieri’s local TV production as a boon.
“Chefs come here all the time for Guy’s show,” he said. “We could do pop-ups and private dinners.” Production crews from Fieri’s shows are frequent visitors to the deli, he claims.
“I want to create opportunity. I’ve always looked up to Guy; he’s such an entrepreneur, and he comes from Sonoma County. It’s important for me to give back to the community that gave me my start,” Dominic said.
“I just want to blow this brand up and let the world know,” he said. He also hopes to ship the raviolis across the country and make Canevari’s a “worldwide” name.
Biting into a fresh cannoli filled with creamy ricotta, a shower of powdered sugar, a drizzle of honey and bits of torn basil, it’s easy to see how this kind of grandma-style Italian cuisine could be a draw.
Lou Ciambrone looked over at my gussied up cannoli and asked his son about the fancy additions he’s made to the simple dessert.
“He’s been in L.A. too long,” Lou said with a hearty laugh.
Canevari’s is at 695 Lewis Road in Santa Rosa. Call 707-545-6941 or visit canevarisdeli.com. The deli is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and closed Sunday and Monday.