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Sonoma remembers Paul Garcia, 1983 - 2020

Paul Anthony Garcia died at Kaiser Medical Center in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Dec. 12 after suffering a heart attack. He was 37.

Garcia grew up in Sonoma and attended St. Francis Solano School, St. Vincent High School, Cardinal Newman High School and St. Mary's College in Moraga. He graduated from California Culinary Academy in 2004.

After graduating from culinary school, he moved to Nevada to work at Valentino restaurant in the Venetian resort in Las Vegas.

Garcia returned to Sonoma to run the Little Switzerland restaurant with his mother and, more recently, he was working at his family’s business, Sonoma Materials.

Garcia’s mother, Alina Ivancic, told the Index-Tribune that her son was inspired to be a chef and trained in the kitchen by Sonoma restaurateurs Zino Mezoui and Carlo Cavallo.

Cavallo, who previously owned the downtown restaurant Meritage and now co-owns B&V in Sonoma, said that the Garcias have been like a second family to him, and Paul like a little brother.

“Paul worked in my kitchen for years and he was a very talented chef,” said Cavallo. “He was a sweet soul, funny and passionate about cooking.”

Ivancic describes her son as always loving adventure, learning new things, and enjoying spirited conversation and debate.

“Paul got the perseverance and stubbornness of being a Finn from me and the Mexican joy of family and celebration from his father,” said Ivancic.

“He was very private but he really cared about other people,” she added. “That’s one reason he enjoyed hospitality because he enjoyed creating an atmosphere for people to enjoy life.”

‘Paul got the perseverance and stubbornness of being a Finn from me and the Mexican joy of family and celebration from his father.’ ǀǀǀ Alina Ivancic.

Reached on Wednesday, Garcia’s longtime best friend Lazaro Robledo said that he loved “Pablo” dearly and was devastated by his sudden death.

“We met 18 years ago when he was running Little Switzerland and we quickly became best friends, bonding over the fact that we both were first generation Mexican-Americans whose parents had built successful companies here,” said Robledo, whose family owns and operates Robledo Winery. “We loved talking about our family’s businesses.”

Robeldo added that Garcia was known as a fantastic host. “He made everyone feel welcome and at home.”

Musician Steve Balich played regularly at Little Switzerland during the time that Paul Garcia helped run the restaurant.

“Paul was a great chef, a great bartender and he had a gift for making people feel special,” said Balich. “Every time we showed up, he’d drop what he was doing, give us a hug and help us set up. At intermission, he’d even make a special meal for the band.”

Garcia is survived by his parents, Ivancic and Tony Garcia, his brother Erik, sister-in-law Josie and nephews Benjamin, Robert and Henry. Garcia was predeceased by his brother, Ryan "G,“ in 2019.

A memorial service will be scheduled when COVID restrictions are lifted.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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