“Io sono Italiano.” (I am Italian). Like any ethnic family, I am very proud of my heritage.
All of my grandparents emigrated from Avellino and Benevento in Southern Italy and came through Ellis Island before World War 1. With them they brought their love and respect for Italy, its culture, cuisine and its warm, lively traditions.
Growing up in Hoboken and Cliffside Park, New Jersey, some of my earliest memories are of our annual family gatherings to make the homemade wine. Both sides of my large Italian family would get together – the men in charge of the winemaking and the women in charge of making jam and jelly from the fresh grapes brought in from California. During the day lots of last years’ wine would be tasted, Italian songs would be sung, jokes would be told and laughter filled the air. I could only imagine that this is what life was like in Italy and was proud that my family brought a little bit of the “old country” with them to America.
Not a bit of these lively traditions of Italy were lost on me. Coupling that with a childhood spent in a large Italian neighborhood and growing up working in a family bakery with my big brother and sister I have a great appreciation of the richness of our culinary heritage. I often like to say like to say, “I’m a baker by trade, a chef by passion”.
Arriving on the Monterey Peninsula in 1974, I was immediately inspired by the bounty of the land and sea. Being Italian, I was welcomed by the Sicilian fishermen families of Monterey and learned the appreciation of the fresh seafood available here and how to prepare the famed seafood stew called cioppino. On the Monterey Peninsula, you are never far from view of the sea, and I enjoy hiking and biking along the seaside when time allows. One special place I recommend to all visitors is a hike through at Point Lobos, which offers spectacular views, whale watching, sun-bathing and gives one the sense of the serenity offered here on the Monterey Peninsula. Not far away is Castroville which is called the “Artichoke Capital of the World”, and the Salinas Valley, rich in agriculture often referred to as “America’s Salad Bowl”.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea I worked as a baker until I was able to purchase the historic Carmel Bakery in 1985, the oldest business in town having been established in 1899. My wife Sandra and I then opened Little Napoli Bistro Italiano in 1990. Pèppoli at Pebble Beach was opened in collaboration with famed Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori and the Pebble Beach Company in 2000, followed by Vino Napoli Wine Bar in 2007 and Vesuvio Trattoria in 2010. Both of my sons, Christian and Gian Antonio, are an integral part of the family business as it enters its second generation.
Today, it is my passion and dream to pass along and share my family’s lifestyle and traditions through my restaurant, wine, travel and hospitality ventures.
Italy’s most famous winemaker, Marchese Piero Antinori says of Pèpe:
“Creative and passionate, Pèpe is a modern day Ambasciatore of Italian Food & Wine, and through his restaurants, travels and cooking classes teaches people about the Italian lifestyle, its culinary heritage and shares his passione for all things Italian”.