Remembering Peter

On a recent visit with Peter, I read this as well as other stories of our life in Los Banos (posted in my blog)  Peter was quite a guy. Peter gifted me a field of pumpkins so I could prepare squash flowers for my Father, Farmers and Friends who ate at the ‘Round’ Table at La Famiglia , my Los Banos deli and ristorante (1979-1986). Here’s the story posted in 2009:

In the early years, bankers, farmers, salesmen and businessmen met at the Cup N’ Saucer, a downtown coffee shop in my hometown of Los Banos. They joined each other mainly at Lunch at the ‘Round Table’, a large round table on the right as you entered. After the Cup and Saucer closed, they found other dining ‘conference’ tables, Tiny’s, Denny’s and at my ristorante and delicatessen, La Familglia. They sat in the back at the antique poker table. This was a farmer’s exchange, farmers, fertilizer salesmen, truckers, packers, they were all there: Joe Vajretti, Shawn Moosekian, Bugs Haumea, Peter LoBue, Tony Mogolio, Ralph Palazzo, and more.

My interest was to feed them. Favorite meals were perfectly cooked roast beef, served room temp with thick sliced vine-ripened tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with chopped capers, onions and anchovies; on the side, good crusty bread.

All of us welcomed the season’s freshest pick. We could never get enough of one favorite,  squash flowers. One day my Dad commented to Peter LoBue, “Peter, why don’t you plant a row of pumpkins so Nancy has squash flowers to prepare?” Peter responded, “OK, Papa Joe, I’ll see what I can do.” I grew up with Peter; he’s always been a big thinker. Shortly thereafter, at lunch at the Round Table Peter announced that he had planted a field of pumpkins on 152 West of town! I would have squash blossoms and he would have a pumpkin patch to offer the pumpkins for sale in the Fall.

Mornings are the best time to pick because the flowers are wide open. Every day I traveled with my dog Lester to the pumpkin patch. While Lester romped in the field, I picked squash blossoms. To pick them doesn’t require much skill; just to know the ones with the stamen are the males. They will not produce fruit.  I would pick the flower at its stem including the green webbed bell shaped base. Once picked, I placed them upside down and side by side in a basket. For me, to come away from the field with forty blossoms is a victory for my farmer’s lunches. Off to the deli I would go.

The Recipe:  Fior d’ Italia  Squash Blossoms

To prepare, remove the stamen, peel away the base of the flower, gently rinse the inside and outside with water and place upside down in a large colander. At this point the flowers can be placed in the refrigerator covered with a damp cloth.

For the crepe batter, we use Mom’s sweet crepe batter eliminating the sugar for a savory rendition. For the filling, I tried several types of cheese; my favorite is the original Jack cheese.

To prepare the flowers, open the flower and fill with a piece of Jack cheese. Reserve them on a damp towel. We eliminated frying and opted griddling. Preheat the griddle and brush with vegetable oil. Dip the filled flowers in the batter, lay on the griddle. If the batter is too thick, thin with milk. The look of the stuffed squash blossom is to see the flowers lightly coated so the veins are visible. Cook until the color and consistency of a cooked pancake or crepe.  Flip over and cook on the other side.  Serve as a hors d’oeuvre, side dish, vegetable or for brunch.





From field to platter….

Beautiful, fresh from pumpkin fields now from above….SQUASH FLOWERS!!

Missing you forever Peter, Love Nancy



Love&Garlic ‘Spreadables’ @ Sumner Peck Farmstore on Hwy 41

Just delivered: a bushel of spreads to the Sumner Peck Ranch Farmstore on Hwy 41.

You can’t miss the building, it’s PURPLE.

Love & Garlic ‘Spreadables’, creamy spreads of goat & cream cheeses infused with  Artichoke,  Garlic   or Fig & Walnut.

Try them with our hand crafted Garlic Crostini. Perfect for picnics, road travel, snacks or a hostess gift.

 Look for Love & Garlic ‘Spreadables’ in the refrigerator case (on the left) as you enter.

Roasted Garlic ‘Spreadable’  

Lemon Garlic Artichoke ‘Spreadable’  

Local Fig & Walnut ‘Spreadable’                          Handcrafted Garlic Crostini


  Try Roasted Garlic on your Burger

Stir Lemon Artichoke into Pasta

Spread Fig Walnut on Bagels or Waffles

you can’t miss with….

Love & Garlic California Artisan Foods


My Favorite Spring Picnic

Of all the picnics I will attend and cater, the benchmark is my family’s Easter Picnic at Quinta Fay (a magical place).

At any good get together, a certain vibe ignites. The combustible ingredients are the holy trinity of perfect parties: the location, the guests and the food. This year, as well as last, a new vibe, babies! … a fresh Spring crop of babies from nephews and nieces, our babies had babies and the circle of life continues. Conversation, connections, music, magic tricks and even a survey and mini juried art show filled the air. Did I mention the food? The food is always amazing and as diverse as our group. This year even more so, I think babies had something to do with it.

I especially want to thank our honored hosts Peter and Lenore without whom Quinta Fay would not exist as our Easter picnic ‘grounds’. For catered Spring Picnics, Love and Garlic can create the food and decor,  but you must bring your own babies! 

 Love and Garlic,  Nancy Vajretti

Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs w/ Tapanade



Roasted Eggplant-Bells-&-Herb Goat Cheese

Bob’s Armenian String Cheese & Yolanchi


Bob’s Hummus


Easter Pie & /vegetarian Version Ricotta Quiche













BBQ Spring Lamb



Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics…it’s a TRADITION!


To know Nancy is to know how much I love Easter Pie and the traditions ‘Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics’. It’s a tradition! Each year my family and I ‘gather and cook’ Easter Pie and the vegetarian version, Ricotta Quiche. Thanks to Love & Garlic’s  commissary and our PRODUCTION COOKING methods, the ‘fruits of our labor’ yield 36 Easter Pies and 20 Ricotta Quiche (oh yes, Generation 3, are vegetarians). It’s a tradition! Each year we give the gift of food’ …adorable, precious, scrumptious handcrafted pies to our family and friends .  It’s a tradition! Each year we ‘gather’ friends and family at a historic ranch in Gustine for our annual ‘Rite of Spring’ Easter Picnic. This tradition and the foods we eat come from the cooking of the Great San Joaquin, Spring lamb, Portuguese beans, rosemary garlic chicken, Greek salad, Asparagus, polenta, and on and on. Peter brings the big bbq rig, the guys bbq and the day begins. Guests from all areas and walks of life enter into the Spanish inspired hacienda and gardens of our hosts. Everyone brings delectable foods, we visit, drink Sangria and fine wines, ’tis the Rite of our Spring Picnic. JOIN OUR EASTER TRADITIONS…

Gather 12 of your friends for our Production Cooking class. You receive 24 Easter Pies & 12 Ricotta Quiche  $60 per person

Give the Gift of Food, 2 lb half pies, $19.50 and 4 lb round pies, $29.50.

Gather family and friends for a ‘Easter Spring Picnic’. We will offer a true picnic and send you with baskets of foods and supplies for 12 and up or we will recreate, ‘basque’ style, a bbq on the open grill… lamb and chicken  along with the foods of the Great San Joaquin…24 minimum. The price, around $20.00- $35 per person. Prices will vary depending on menu and services. Read more…


In Style


                         Each new year, Winter into Spring is natures burst into being . Born again. 

         I search for my new soul food, what juices me, what is the spirit of Love and Garlic. 

     I also look to the consumer, buying trends, what & how people are eating. I frequent 

trade shows especially ‘The Fancy Food Show’ and travel to see, to eat, to learn & most 

importantly to share new ideas. When you call, my job is to create a food experience that  

is on par with your ideas; to spark your creative juices to build the perfect pairing of vision 

and food. This is what separates us from others, coupled with our experience, muscle and  

know how to get the job done. I would like to invite you to visit our web site and Join our mailing list and 

automatically be entered to win a meatball slider bar (serves 25). You will receive 

news of upcoming events; production cooking classes, parties, parties, parties and 

food trends such as field suppers, barn dinners, family suppers, food stations and bars 

and much more! If you are a foodie, this is a delicious way to sample the Love & Garlic flavor. 

Good tastes & eat and buy local!



Love &Garlic


Nancy Vajretti  


‘ Vineyard Weddings’ by Love & Garlic at Engelmann Cellars Sunday JOIN US!




Taste Taste Taste… Taste & CompareTaste & Pair


Love & Garlic and 24 Wedding Professionals will be at Engelmann Cellars this Sunday February 24th from 12-4PM. Wines from Engelmann Cellars, Artisan foods from Love & Garlic, wedding cakes from Barb’s Cakery, sweet treats from Sweeties and more. I heard it thru the grapevine that Walker Lewis will create a Lounge experience in this season’s new neutrals. For us, love, love, love this season’s pastels and luxury fabrics. See our Vineyard Wedding Style. Enjoy the Vineyard, the Wines, Foods, Music & all the pros of our industry. 

 I won’t be CRUSHED when you JOIN US on Sunday at ‘A Bridal Showcase’, Engelmann Cellars an extraordinary vineyard venue. Visit our Vineyard Wedding Canopy to plan your special day. Great California Artisan food is what we are all about.    Taste & Pair with Love & Garlic, Nancy Vajretti


Please visit our sites



Be The Valentine!

Food Fact; Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly known as Valentine’s Day,[1][2][3] or the Feast of Saint Valentine celebrating life of St. Valentine with food and gifts shaped like hearts.

Food is only one of the many ways to show love to another person, especially if you are Italian. A “Love Meal” might take more time than you have to spend, so taking your love to dinner is the next best thing or is it? Let me pull on your heart strings and suggest another idea: A romantic meal in the comfort of your home! Revisit your dining room table with candlelight and much wine (because you’re not driving) and take full advantage of the situation!

Add Love & Garlic’s hand crafted cannelloni. Just pop it in the oven, cork some wine and make the world shine! We can  include our signature crostini and spreads.  “Allow me to serve you,” and that will get the pilot light on! Follow with dinner, romantic music  and…. Or give the gift of knowledge: How about a Cioppino Chef Series class? Something to warm your Valentine and guests on a cold eve, this stew was invented by local fishermen to fulfill the soul and the body. Invite friends to join our Cioppino class and share some fish stew, spread the love and “Be the Valentine”. 

Visit  to see the rest of it!


Chef Series III Gather & Cook ‘Cioppino’!

 What could be better than gathering with your best friends to cook what I think is the best winter stew on the planet, ‘Cioppino’. Created by the Portuguese and Italian fishermen of the central bays, this is a simple catch of the day stew served w/ crusty sour dough bread cooked fresh and eaten at the pier.   Wrap your hands around a hot bowl of your favorite seafood in a zesty stew and let your senses swirl in this intoxicating brew. Crab season is at its peak so let’s get cooking. We offer this wonderful fish stew two ways:

1. As a cooking class at your place or ours…learn the secrets and techniques of creating a perfect hearty, healthy classic cioppino. This is a must have in your recipe arsenal.  Minimum 12 persons $60 per person.

2. As a cioppino party… this stew was designed to be eaten fresh from the kettle, best served family style. We will do the cooking with on site chef, you do the eating!  Minimum 25 persons $50-$65 per person. Price varies based on number of guests, event specifics.

Note: Both 1 & 2  w/crusty sour dough bread, winter greens salad and polenta cake for dessert.  Appetizers, too!


Our 12 Days of Food SPECIAL Priced…

3 Great Pastas

-Classic Pumpkin Ravioli

-Unique Love & Garlic Artichoke Lasagna

-Traditional Artisan Cannelloni

Let us help you fill your friends, family, client, employee X-mas stockings with the Gift of Food.

Purchase 6 orders of Pumpkin Ravioli or 6 orders Artichoke Lasagna for $30 ea (a savings of $39).                    Purchase 10 orders of either Pumpkin Ravioli or Artichoke Lasagna for $26.50 ea (a savings of $100).                

Freeze our Artisan Pasta knowing it is tucked away ready for the party! 

FYI New Year’s week is Cannelloni (production) Week. Purchase 10 for a savings of $100!  





12 Foods of Christmas #3

This is my husband Rick singing: “On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a big fat pan of  Artichoke Lasagna w/cheeeese, yummm!”

A La Famiglia Myth: When I had my Deli, ‘La Famiglia’ in Los Banos, I learned that if a woman was with child and wanted to give birth, she ordered a big helping of our La Famiglia Lasagna, seemed it was a remedy for inducing labor. Still in wonder, my ladies would call to say that after eating a large quantity of this layered goodness, they had given birth! You don’t have to be carrying a belly full of baby to enjoy our artisan Artichoke meatless lasagna. For friends, relatives, partners and employees,  it is a great gift of food. Bring it to a Holiday ‘potluck’ or serve it to your family for dinner, it freezes well and also heats up quickly in the microwave.   



Burt Wolf, noted food historian has said that Rome is like a lasagna: The foundation is the Ancient City, followed by the Renaissance in all its glory. Next, Rome, the City of La Dolce Vita, according to Burt, is the peppering of cheese and spice of life. I never thought of lasagna as Rome’s layers of history but as they say in Roma, ‘ma certo!’


If you order 6 pans Pumpkin Ravioli or Lasagna, they are $30 ea and for ten, $26.50 ea. Gift the Gift of Food!                Love & Garlic, Nancy V



Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: