Former Napa Valley restaurateur-chef Orazio Rosario Patti died in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 3, 2009, at the age of 53.
A native of Tusa, Sicily, Rosario opened the Sicilian restaurant, Belle Arti, behind the Napa Valley Opera House on Sept. 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attack in lower Manhattan effectively shuttered the Brooklyn restaurant he ran with partner Santo Sacca.
Rosario introduced a regional style of Italian cuisine to wine country in an intimate downtown setting, cooking and serving a variety of special dishes to regular customers — ranging from arancini to octopus, penne alla Norma to zuppa Inglese.
For three and a half years, the Sicilian natives made friends and fed hungry diners at their popular downtown Napa eatery. They sold that business in 2006, then lent support to restaurateur Russell Kassman at The Depot while waiting for the right moment to launch a new culinary venture.
That opportunity arrived in the fall of 2006 with the opening of Cafe Rosario, an intimate pizza and pasta restaurant in American Canyon’s Canyon Plaza.
Rosario returned to Little Rock, Ark., in 2008, opening a Sicilian eatery similar to one he had operated there in the mid-’90s.
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Rosario Patti launched his career in the hospitality industry as a teenager, relocating from Sicily to Atlantic City, N.J., to live with an older sister. He worked in the kitchen at a landmark Italian eatery near the famed Atlantic City boardwalk.
Returning to Sicily as a young man, Rosario was employed by an Italian firm that installed power lines in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East. He served as a recruiter for the company and also fed the workers — jobs he enjoyed for nearly two decades.
In the early ’90s, he opened a jewelry store in Cefalu, Sicily, his initial partnership with Sacca. A few years later, he returned to the United States, where both men worked for a popular Italian restaurant in New York City.
Within a year, the pair relocated to Arkansas, eventually opening a trio of restaurants — in both Little Rock and Hot Springs — and a nightclub.
Rosario is survived by two sisters — one in New Jersey, another in Milan, Italy — and a brother who lives in Germany. His ashes will be interred next to those of his parents in his hometown of Tusa.
A celebration of Rosario’s life is planned at 4 p.m. Sept. 13 at Fabrizio’s Restaurant, 806 Fourth St., Napa, hosted by friends and co-owners Fabrizio Castangia and Alessandro Baratella. For information and R.S.V.P., call 226-1900.