Hamburger and a large lemon Coke, please
Musings of a Sonoma son
Photo of Rocco Benedetto, left (proprietor of the Creamery for 28 years and also a scratch golfer) shaking hands with Sonoman John Flachman, another local golfer who was club champion at the old Sonoma Golf and Country Club.
A local group headed by Carlo Cavallo is reopening the old Sonoma Creamery at the corner of East Spain Street and First Street East.
Carlo is calling it Burgers and Vine. I like the emphasis on burgers, which were so central to the Creamery’s fare during my youth in Sonoma.
Recently, in my father’s cache of old Sonoma stuff, I found an original menu from the Creamery that was probably from the 1940s. A hamburger was 20 cents; add 5 cents and you got a cheeseburger. Cokes and root beers were 5 cents, a milk shake 20 cents.
You could order two eggs, ham, toast and coffee for 50 cents.
How many of you remember the Creamery’s Sheep Herder? It was sort of a sundae made with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream, strawberry syrup, nuts, whipped cream and a cherry for 30 cents.
Many days of my youth were spent hanging out at the Creamery with Jerry Benedetto, son of Creamery proprietors Rocco and Carmella Benedetto, who ran the Creamery for 28 years before selling it in 1976.
Jerry and I were best buddies and baseball teammates. We might be out playing ball or hiking Nathanson Creek during long summer days, but we’d usually end up having burgers and lemon Cokes in one of the Creamery booths that ran along the northern wall with windows facing the mission. The burgers were fried on the grill and the best I ever tasted.
Rock and Carm, as virtually everyone called them, worked the counter and the kitchen with one or two waitpersons helping out.
The best days were when Rocco was making ice cream. I especially liked the chocolate. We’d go into the back where the machine was running and get him to run some of the super creamy fresh stuff into a big cup for each of us. I can still remember the wonderful ice-cold chocolate taste and texture.
The Creamery was the lunch-and- later-afternoon hangout for many local business folks, teachers and those in city government. On any given day, you could see the mayor, police chief, high school principal and other community leaders seated at the counter sharing information and opinions about local happenings. Among the regulars, discussions and arguments could run on for days or even weeks and months.
Rock and SVHS vice-principal Chet Sharek shared cups of coffee and a long-running argument for years about who was the better baseball player, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. On any given afternoon, you could drop in, eavesdrop and pick up where the argument left off. I don’t believe they ever decided that question.
Bill Rettle, a former Sonoma police officer who eventually became the chief, said his predecessor hired him on the spot while he was visiting Sonoma on vacation from the Midwest. Bill was having a burger at the counter when Joe Spinelli, the Sonoma police chief, sat down next to him. During the conversation, Bill told Spinelli he was a cop from another state. One word led to another and before lunch was over, Bill was offered a job as a Sonoma officer. He accepted.
That was certainly not the only business transaction conducted at the Creamery counter during those days.
It will be nice to have that old hang out open again.