October 23, 2021


Free For All Food

Occidental’s classic Italian dining establishments Union Lodge, Negri’s adapt

Collectively they’ve got additional than 200 decades of background on both aspect of the Bohemian Freeway in the very small west county city of Occidental.

In a natural way, then, neither Negri’s nor the Union Hotel is heading to enable a international pandemic convey them down.

The two legendary restaurants, which sit throughout the avenue from every other in the coronary heart of the well known tourist city, have endured the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic considerably like every single restaurant in the county — with suits and starts. Each shut down in mid-March. Equally reopened in July.

Heading into the holiday period both are embracing changes to roll with the realities of the day. At the 141-year-old Union Lodge, which opened in 1879, this suggests a newfangled open up-air shelter below which visitors will be ready to dine at a length from each and every other but also in the shadow of a embellished Christmas tree. At 77-yr-aged Negri’s, which dates to 1943, it indicates a lot more of the exact same home made ravioli and gnocchi, only all dine-in orders are served underneath a tent.

As of push time, each eating places ended up open up only a few times a 7 days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

“We’re performing what we ought to to get by means of this,” mentioned 87-year-outdated Evelyn Negri, the matriarch of the Negri family who however makes pasta by hand. “That’s the ideal any of us can do.”

Negri’s geared up for out of doors-only assistance in colder weather conditions with a workmanlike frame of mind rather of splurging on a host of extravagant remedies for facilitating outdoor dining, the household secured a no-frills tent and some card tables to place within it.

All through a current pay a visit to, there weren’t lots of heaters trying to keep points warm, but patrons appeared pleased to be taking in do-it-yourself gnocchi and linguini and clams.

Evelyn Negri reported that during the pandemic, her restaurant also has changed what they serve. For starters, in “before times,” Negri’s was renowned for its family-design dinners. Currently, every thing will come portioned for 1. What is extra, all dinners utilised to arrive with antipasto, salad, soup and a several ravioli on the facet presently, every thing is packaged — and billed — separately.

“I wish we could do family members-style yet again,” Negri claimed. “I’m irritated and I just want to get via this.”

The scene at the Union Resort — which survived the 1918 pandemic — is markedly distinct. Below, there is no tent. Alternatively, the cafe has been serving visitors at major round steel tables in the courtyard and lesser tables in an area out in front of the saloon. Get a drink at the bar and a bartender will go it to you through an aged support window.

According to proprietor Barbara “Barb” Gonnella, the window itself is steeped in background — her spouse and co-owner’s name is Frank, and his grandparents employed to tie their horses just beneath the window.

The Union Resort has been in the Gonnella family considering that 1925 and was operate prior to Frank by his mothers and fathers Mahoney and Lucille Gonnella and his grandparents Carlo and Mary Panizzera.

“The window experienced develop into this sacred spot close to listed here, primarily since of a background that goes back again to 1897,” she explained. “Who would have at any time dreamed that we would have been selling cocktails out of that window in 2020?”

The large tale at the Union is the composition that Frank Gonnella crafted to maintain shoppers warm, dry and secure. The composition is a cross amongst a pergola and a barn.

Frank Gonnella worked on the construction for most of November and set it into place shortly in advance of Thanksgiving. As Barb Gonnella defined it, the strategy was to string holiday break lights from the roof beams and set up a Xmas tree amid the tables and heaters down below.

When COVID-19 is powering us, she added, she expected Frank Gonnella to change the composition into anything to preserve logs dry and prepared for the hearth.

To be distinct, the menu at the Union Lodge is much far more minimal than regular — currently it is comprised of a number of salads, some bruschetta, pizzas and some pastas. Barb Gonnella claimed the restaurant anticipated to churn out dozens of turkeys for Thanksgiving, and would probably put together distinctive treats for Christmas up coming month, as well.

“We usually try out to give out cookies to the youngsters,” stated Barb Gonnella, 62. “Over the decades, we’ve developed a quite certain way of doing matters.”

Despite evening temperatures in the 40s and 50s, readers have responded positively to these initiatives.

Very last weekend the two dining places had been hopping — so a lot so that one particular journalist concerned no matter whether he and his three daughters could come across a spot that was extra than 6 ft from the closest occasion. (Spoiler alert: They did.)

Due to the fact food stuff is well prepared in get-absent containers, every single get can be remodeled into a picnic — important for when it’s crowded and site visitors however want to have an authentic Occidental practical experience.

Probably most vital, irrespective of adjustments associated with the coronavirus, dining at both dining places is nonetheless a spouse and children affair. At the Union Resort, Frank and Barb Gonnella’s daughter, Gien, continue to sometimes plays piano. At Negri’s, Evelyn and Joe Negri’s daughter, Sandra, and their two granddaughters, Amanda Pianatowski and Tori Miller, very significantly run the demonstrate.

“It’s constantly been a relatives affair,” Evelyn stated. “This is one of the things persons enjoy about us.”

At the conclude of the working day, whilst the two places to eat are opponents, management at both equally is vested in the long run of the town, which implies the people have labored with each other to get via this latest crisis.

Earlier this yr, for instance, Barb Gonnella fought to have the town’s wastewater fees adjusted so they have been not these types of a burden on local restaurateurs. Although her endeavours immediately benefited the Union Lodge, they also benefited other business enterprise house owners in city.

“It was wonderful to arrive collectively over that,” she said.

Aaron Carpenter, a Healdsburg resident who has been heading to the Union given that he was a baby, is confident the location will endure.

Just after viewing on a latest weekend day with his wife and daughters, Carpenter stayed to soak up the ambiance and chat with Barb Gonnella. Upon reflection, he said this minute was precisely what he enjoys about the place, and why there is seriously no other location in Wine Place like it.

“There’s anything about the Union Hotel that just feels diverse from anywhere else when you wander in,” he mused in a modern text message. “West Sonoma County is fortunate that the Gonnella loved ones understands this and normally takes care of it in a stewardship sort of way. Irrespective of whether it be a marriage reception, household evening meal or simply a Monday Evening Soccer game, it is a area for any celebration, and it is particular every time.”