Fiori’s Restaurant in Occidental was the pride and joy of Ray Fiori, a tireless chef who oversaw some of the county’s most popular kitchens in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Born Aug. 29, 1924, in Santa Rosa to Clara and Anthony Fiori, Ray was one of four children reared in the restaurant world. He attended grammar school in Santa Rosa before the family moved to Occidental to open Fiori’s restaurant in 1935.
Ray Fiori eventually enrolled at Tomales High School. After graduation, he joined the Army Air Forces, but his plane crashed during a training mission and the bellygunner suffered injuries that cut short his stint in the service. After being medically discharged, he returned to Sonoma County and his parents’ Occidental restaurant.
A favorite spot for the kids at Fiori’s Restaurant was at the pinball machines in the bar area. “It was a family business,” said Fiori’s daughter, Tamela Mesenbrink of Sebastopol. “I guess Ray knew it was his calling.” In addition to the minestrone soup, salad and entree, the Italian dinner included zucchini pancakes, a platter of lamb stew and banana fritters. By the time you reached the dessert, you realized that what made the meal exceptional was not just the ingredients, but the flavor of being welcomed into a home with a warm embrace and a place at the family table for everyone. The extended family ran and staffed the restaurant until it was sold in 1969. Ray Fiori passed away at age 88 in 2012.
What do you remember of Fiori’s?