Rich Catelli

Rich Catelli 

Richard Catelli was 83

Old friends and family gathered on Nov. 16 at Catelli’s Restaurant to share birthday wishes and stories about Richard Catelli, the middle generation of the Geyserville restaurant family that opened its eponymous restaurant 1936.

“Most of the stories, I think, were at least half true and I know my dad really appreciated hearing them all,” said his son Nicholas. 

There will be more story telling about Richard on Jan. 12 because Richard, who was very ill on his birthday, passed away Dec. 18 from cancer. There will be memorial services at St. John’s, the Baptist Church in Healdsburg, at 2 p.m. followed by a community gathering at the restaurant.

He was born Nov. 11, 1936 in Healdsburg. He was 83 when he died.

As a young man, Richard couldn’t wait to leave small Geyserville for bigger things. He first traveled to Chicago while working in sales and marketing for the Italian Swiss Colony wine company. His parents, Santi and Virginia were doing well with their Italian restaurant, based on Virginia’s recipes and cooking. But, when his father’s health began to falter, Richard was called back to Geyserville to help manage and eventually take over the business. He ended up running the restaurant, originally called “The Rex,” for almost another 40 years.

After a brief closing, Richard’s children Nicholas and Domenica re-opened the restaurant in 2010. Free to roam once again, Richard traveled all over the country. Visitors would come to the restaurant and let Nick or Domenica know they just saw their dad in places like Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and countless other places. 

“He got around,” Nick said. “He always told me, ‘I’m always on the go.’ And he was. He was a rolling stone.”

But for the years he ran the restaurant, Richard was a reliable presence behind or very near the Catelli’s impressive ornate wood-carved bar. 

“He held court,” Nick said. Today, just as with all the many years of serving bountiful, delicious Italian meals, Catelli’s is a big draw in a very small town. “We’re here for the locals,” said Nick. “We don’t have anything against the tourists, of course, but this has always been about family.”

Richard was known for his community contributions and sharing. 

He liked to cook for anyone and anything, spending many year contributing to the food pantry. As the word has been spreading about his father’s death, Nick said the sympathy messages and outpouring has been almost overwhelming. A third child, daughter Alicia; daughter-in-law Anna Catelli; son-in-law Michael Yosowitz and grandchildren Chiara, Santi and Nicolo Catelli also survive him.

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