Art Ibleto's Kingdom
If Art Ibleto can hook
Sonoma County on green spaghetti, he
figures he can do the same with cornmeal
So, on a
Saturday morning he's pushing polenta at
his Pasta King booth at the Santa Rosa
Farmer's Market. Not just the golden
brick of plain polenta, but a variation
made with spinach, garlic and onion that
he got up at 4:30 a.m. to make.
this?" customers ask. "The
polenta of the future," he answers
and sticks a knife in to a slice and
points it at them.
It's free. Not for sale. Just try
Next week he'll
bring another version. Maybe with potato
or some cabbage. "When you work with
food, you have to use your
credit for introducing a generation to
pesto at his spaghetti booth at the
Sonoma County Fair. Not only did he offer
marinara sauce but something that looked
like chewed grass.
would look and say "What's that
green stuff?" Now pesto is No. 1
with the kids."
attended a pasta feed fund-raiser is
Sonoma County in the last two decades
probably would have found Ibleto in the
kitchen. A breakneck schedule of church,
political and charity fund-raisers keeps
him booked sometimes seven nights a week.
Plus he's been at the Sonoma County Fair
for 19 summers and the Farmer's Market
"We cook so
much pasta, it's unbelievable."
"Garlic is the oldest
medicine in the world.
It cuts down on
cholesterol you know.
You eat garlic,
How does he
here," he says, calling out
"buon giorno" while he slathers
pesto sauce on chunks of bread, enticing
customers to buy his prepared sauces,
lasagna and ravioli.
Ibleto grew up
in Sesta Godano near Genoa in the Liguria
region of Northern Italy, where food is a
way of life.
region in Italy has different food. It's
according to what they grew in the
backyard. Not everybody can raise a
tomato in the backyard, so he lives on
potatoes. The next guy lives on
In his part of
Italy, they grew basil and garlic in the
backyard. They'd grind it up with some
slat and Parmesan cheese. They called it
"pesto" because they pounded
use it on anything. Baked potato. Salmon.
You take a piece of dry chicken and you
add a little pesto and it's a completely
some time before people like something
new. Then they drive you crazy for
Now he picks up
a piece of polenta. "Polenta is
Northern Italy. They take it up in the
Alps, and it can last for 10 days in a
pack. You warm it up on a flat rock over
a fire. Put some cheese on top.
Wonderful. You've got food for a
like pasta which is no good left over.
With polenta, it's the reverse. It gets
better as it gets older and the more you
warm it up."
It's another one
of Ibleto's Italian contributions to
Sonoma County, which he likes to say
"was built by Italians."
elected state president of the Sons of
Italy in July, he gets to do his Italian
chief," he says, beaming. He's also
"the first guy from the North Bay
and first Genovese to be president."
Ibleto is a
full-blooded Italian even though he was
born in Argentina. His father was working
there for the telephone company and
"my mother just happened to be there
when I was born."
Ibleto is so
Italian he eats pasta at least twice a
day, often beginning with minestrone soup
At the Santa
Rosa Farm Market, Santa Rosan Tim Simkins
and 6-year-old son Joey are Saturday
regulars. Simkins comes for the soup.
Joey for the pesto.
think people realize how generous Art is.
He's always giving food away," says