Michael Joseph Ghilarducci, 66, of Sonoma, passed away at home in his sleep on the morning of Monday, May 5, 2014.
Michael was born on Oct. 31, 1947, in San Francisco, to Francesco Ghilarducci and Mara Jean Ghilarducci (née Baker). Michael graduated from Woodside School in 1965, and San Francisco City College’s Hotel and Restaurant Administration program in 1967. He married Virginia (“Gia”) Ghilarducci (née Wade) on April 12, 1969.
Michael’s career in the restaurant business spanned 55 years, beginning with his work in L’Auberge in Redwood City and his father’s restaurant, Villa d’Este in Los Altos. Michael opened his first restaurant, “Chez Joseph” on Jack London Square in Oakland in 1970, followed by “Columbus Street” in Los Altos and “Liaison” in Palo Alto.
On Dec. 9, 1985, Michael and Gia purchased Sonoma’s historic Giacomo Mazza House, taking over a business long known locally as the “Depot Hotel Restaurant.” Michael and Gia converted the upstairs floor of the Mazza House into their family home, where they proceeded to raise their two children, Gianna Ghilarducci Kelly and Antonio Francesco Ghilarducci.
In 1987, Michael and Gia began teaching cooking classes in the Depot Hotel Restaurant’s kitchen. The courses proved popular and successful. In 2001, Michael and Gia began leading groups of their students through Europe, teaching classes linked to the locations visited. The curriculum included stays in Provence, Tuscany, Argentina and Umbria, and along the coast of the Mediterranean on board Crystal Cruise Lines. In the summer of 2002, one particularly memorable set of classes were taught jointly by Michael and Jacques Pépin in a week-long series at Château de Villette, in Condécourt north of Paris.