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Cal Poly, Saucelito Canyon & Wine History Project
Team up to Build Pavilion Structure 

Students from Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) have teamed with The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County and Saucelito Canyon Vineyard to build an educational pavilion in the heart of the Edna Valley.


Cindy Lambert explains Wine History Project's collections to the Cal Poly

“This one-of-a-kind project will enable students to work with a real client and build a temporary structure to showcase the history of San Luis Obispo County’s wine regions,” said Gregory Starzyk, an associate professor in the Construction Management Department. “Cal Poly is excited to get this project off the ground in the fall with a design phase and in the spring have the students involved in building the temporary structure.”

The pavilion will be a temporary fixture at the Saucelito Canyon tasting
room. The project envisions a unique structure that can be moved to different locations throughout the county. Depending on its size, the pavilion can be set up outside or indoors at vineyards, exhibit halls, parks, festivals and other public spaces.

You can read more about the Pavilion and partnership by clicking the link below:

Click here to read more about the Cal Poly Pavilion

Local Cookbook Collection:  Call For Cookbooks

The Wine History Project is establishing an archive of local cookbooks.  We are looking for suggestions and donations from the public to help build this permanent cookbook collection.  This collection will memorialize local recipes and feature local chefs and authors who have written cookbooks over many decades.

To help establish this new collection, the Wine History Project is seeking donations of local cookbooks to archive with their growing library of wine-related books. Do you have a copy of a local cookbook you would like to donate? It could be a cookbook from the Lighthouse, a historical SLO County family, the Mission, or other local organization? Local restaurants and chefs would be welcome as well. This collection is being cataloged and is available to our members for their own personal use and research. 

Please contact for more information and to share your local cookbook to be added to our archives.

Click Here to read more about the Cookbook Collection

Featured Wine History Project Legend:
The Rizzo Family

Just two weeks ago, a group of fifty food and wine enthusiasts gathered at Cafe Roma in San Luis Obispo to learn more about  the Rizzo family's roots and Italian cuisine. This month we feature the Rizzo family as our Wine History Legend. 

Joseph Rizzo was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and would later become a world-famous concert oboist where he performed with a slate of legendary musical conductors such as Toscanini, Fiedler, and Bernstein. He was celebrated as one of the leading oboists of the twentieth century. During WWII, Joseph served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for the United States government, which would later become the CIA.

Joseph Rizzo, circa late 1930s

While serving in Tunisia, Joseph met the Robaire family, who had French restaurants in the city. Joseph Rizzo sponsored the Robair's and together they opened Robaire’s Restaurant on La Brea Avenue in 1952. It was one of the first notable French restaurants in Los Angeles. After several years in the partnership, Joseph left Robaire’s and opened The Corsican restaurant in 1955.

It was around this time when Joseph met Maria Rosa in Switzerland. They were married in a small Catholic church in Varzo, Italy in 1961. Once married, Joseph, now with Maria Rosa as his wife, returned to Hollywood. Joseph was operating The Corsican restaurant, a French restaurant, which he would run until 1974. 


Corsican Restaurant in Hollywood, circa 1955

The couple's three sons were born in the 1960s while the family lived in the Hollywood Hills. The boys, Denis, Marco and Saro, spent Sundays at the restaurant while Joseph worked on the books with his sister, Rosemary.

The early 1970s were turbulent times and Los Angeles was not immune. Joseph and Maria decided they didn’t want to raise their kids in that environment, so they decided to move from Los Angeles back to Italy. They settled into their lakeside villa in Verbania, Italy on Lago Maggiore, just west of Lake Como. Italy in the early 1970’s also had its fair share of civil unrest.

The Rizzo family moved back to their summer
home in Pallanza, Italy in 1970s.

The Red Brigades, a left-wing terrorist organization, was responsible for numerous violent incidents, including assassinations, kidnapping and robberies during what was called the “Years of Lead.”  Given this, Joseph and Maria decided to return to the U.S. where they were invested in a restaurant in Las Vegas, Via Veneto, (named after a famous street in Rome). They ran it from 1975-1979.

Both Maria Rosa and Joseph were not happy in Las Vegas and didn’t want to raise the family there either.  Joseph and Maria visited friends in San Luis Obispo in September of 1979, fell in love with the city, and moved here one month later. They found a small restaurant for sale in the old Park Hotel next to the railroad. Originally this location started as the Whistle Stop and served railroad workers in the early 1900s. Some say, it is the oldest continuous food establishment in San Luis Obispo. 

After an extensive remodel they opened the new restaurant in May of 1980 and Maria named it Café Roma. The boys worked alongside Maria Rosa and Joseph and took on more of the business responsibilities as Joseph suffered several disabling strokes. Joseph passed away in 1990, leaving the sons and Maria Rosa to continue the family restaurant operations. The brothers decided to grow the family business, and in 1997, they purchased a vacant lot just across the street. The family utilized some of the materials from the original building into the new design of Café Roma.

Café Roma, 1980

The new, larger restaurant gave new life in the small neighboring community now known as the Historic Railroad District.

To this day, Marco and Saro alongside Maria Rosa carry on the family’s restaurant legacy. Joseph’s vision was to celebrate the best of Italian culture, wine and cuisine. Café Roma is a family tradition for many locals and tourists alike. In May of 2020, the family will celebrate 40 years since the opening of Café Roma in San Luis Obispo. This is a triumph in the restaurant industry. The Rizzo family continues to support local farmers and wineries through purchasing locally-sourced produce.

The Wine History Project invites you to visit our website to learn more about the Rizzo family and Cafe Roma.  Click the link below to learn more:

Click Here to read more about the Rizzo Family and Cafe Roma
EXHIBITIONS Current Exhibitions

Prohibition Exhibit: Call for Family Stories

The Wine History Project is currently working on an exhibit to highlight San Luis Obispo history of prohibition.  Our historians are looking to interview families and collect stories relating to Prohibition. We are also looking for tools, instruments or equipment to add to our expanding collection of items from Prohibition. The Wine History Project will be launching multiple exhibits throughout the county including a film on Prohibition in the spring of 2020.

Click Here to see all Current Exhibits

Dusi Family Zinfandel Grape Growers Exhibit

The Wine History Project has posted two educational panels featuring the Dusi family’s five generations of grape growing and farming in Paso Robles.  The exhibit also features the history of the Dusi family, which began with Sylvester and Caterina Dusi emigrating to the United States from their villages, Ono Degno and Casto, in northern Italy in the early 20th Century.


The exhibit is available to view at the J Dusi Tasting Room, open daily from 11am-5pm and located at 1401 California 46 West in Paso Robles.  CLICK HERE to learn more about the Dusi Family.

Exhibit at Saucelito Canyon Winery

The Wine History Project has posted two new educational panels at the Saucelito Canyon Winery Tasting Room in Edna Valley. The first panel, Mysteries of Zinfandel, uncovers the origins of Zinfandel, which have remained a mystery for hundreds of years. The exhibit also shows the  journey of the Zinfandel Grape to San Luis Obispo County, and how it has become the Heritage Grape of the Golden State.  The second panel features the characteristics of Zinfandel and vineyard, growing and pruning information as well as many other additional facts about California's Heritage grape.

We invite you to visit the Saucelito Canyon Tasting Room, located at 3080 Biddle Ranch Road in San Luis Obispo.  The tasting room is open daily from 10am-5pm.

40 Years of Winemaking
Eberle Firsts Exhibit at Eberle Winery in Paso Robles

The Wine History Project has launched a new exhibit featuring Gary Eberle and 40 years of winemaking at Eberle Winery in Paso Robles.  Gary Eberle has played a major role in helping shape the history of the Paso Robles winegrowing region, and is considered a visionary within the industry.  


The exhibit is now open at Eberle Tasting room, located at 3810 California 46 East in Paso Robles.  For more information, please visit:

Hank Donatoni Celebrates 40 years of Winemaking: Hank Donatoni and the Art of Zinfandel

The Wine History Project is proud to feature a celebration panel installment at Donatoni Winery in Paso Robles.  The new  panel features Hank’s achievements and quotes about his life and experiences in the wine industry. Hank is one of the last living San Luis Obispo County winemakers to share memories of hand harvesting.  His partnership with other winemakers in SLO County, including his thirty-six year friendship with Zinfandel grower Richard Sauret, led to their collaboration in producing award-winning Donatoni vintages and verticals from 2009 to 2017.   

You can view Hank Donatoni’s celebration panel at the Donatoni Winery and tasting room by appointment only. Please call 805-226-0620 or email

Seeking Gold, Finding Grapes Exhibit in Paso Robles

The Wine History Project’s exhibit, Seeking Gold, Finding Grapes, is on display at the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society in Paso Robles now through November 2019.  The display features a collection of rare bottles and tools from the California Gold Rush Era.

The El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society is located in the Carnegie Library, City Park, downtown Paso Robles, California. Open Tuesday & Thursday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Closed Monday & Wednesday and major holidays.

Contact Us

Libbie Agran

Aimee Armour-Avant
Visual Resources Manager

Cindy Lambert
Collections Manager
Heather Muran

Karen Petersen
Events Manager​

The Wine History Project was established in 2015 to study the land, microclimates, grape varietals, growers and winemakers who have shaped the wine history of San Luis Obispo County. Today the Wine History Project is staffed by historians and museum professionals who collaborate with a diverse group of advisers and founders. We continue to document and preserve the unique wine and food history of San Luis Obispo County

Central to our research is the process of interviewing growers and winemakers who have shaped the wine history of SLO County. It is through these relationships that we build upon the story of wine in our county while collecting and archiving historical photographs, documents, videography and recordings to preserve their history.

Together We Can Preserve the Story of Central Coast Winemaking

Copyright © 2019 Wine History Project, All rights reserved.

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