The Bay Area food community lost a number of well-loved members in 2014. We’ll remember:
Donna Scala, who died in March at the age of 60, was the rare chef who could (and would) wear pearls in the kitchen. After growing up in the restaurant world and training in France, Scala and husband, Giovanni, founded the Bay Area’s Piatti Ristorante chain in 1987, followed by Scala’s Bistro in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in 1995. It was at the helm of Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa, however, where she made her biggest mark — both for her California-Italian food as well as her vivacious, welcoming personality.
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Victor Gotti was a restaurateur who could claim celebrities as friends and a role in advancing San Francisco’s reputation as a dining town. In 1947, Victor and brother Roland took over Ernie’s from their father and transformed it into the city’s toniest restaurant. For several decades, Ernie’s, in North Beach, represented the peak of civilized San Francisco, with its opulent Victorian decor, French-inspired cuisine and massive wine cellar. Ernie’s closed in 1995 after a 61-year run; Gotti died in November at the age of 92.
San Francisco lost one of its best chefs when Chris L’Hommedieu died of cancer in July at the age of 44. His presence was felt more strongly in the kitchen than in the dining room: L’Hommedieu helped Michael Mina earn four stars at Mina’s first eponymous restaurant, helped Thomas Keller open Per Se in New York and most recently served as the chef de cuisine at Prospect.
The definition of a self-made man, Lorenzo Petroni moved from Lucca, Italy, to San Francisco at the age of 19. After slowly working his way up the ranks, he opened North Beach Restaurant (with Bruno Orsi) in 1970 and Petroni Vineyards in 1992. For more than 40 years, Petroni ran the front of house at his Tuscan resaturant, turning it into one of San Francisco’s informal seats of power.
Cafes all over the Bay Area still honor the legacy of Bonnie Tempesta. In 1982, she began following an aunt’s recipe to bake biscotti, incorporating her business as La Tempesta Bakery a year later. In the years she ran La Tempesta before selling the company in 1997, the bakery introduced America to both plain and chocolate-dipped biscotti, the latter her own invention. Tempesta returned to the biscotti business in 2012 with Boncora, based in Sonoma; she died of cancer at the age of 61 in September.
Erik Dean, who died in a motorcycle accident in July, was a familiar face behind the bar. He last worked at Absinthe and Sauce, but his resume included a plethora of the best-known restaurants and clubs of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Chances are good your favorite bartender trained under him at one place or another.
Eiko Nakamura was just about to open a new spot in Napa’s Oxbow Market when she died in June at the age of 78. She ran Fujiya, a sushi restaurant in Napa, for 24 years before opening Eiko’s in 2011. The restaurant and its market stand retain her name, tribute to a woman who introduced thousands of Wine Country diners to high-quality sushi.
— Jonathan Kauffman, email@example.com