Founders of Sally Tomatoes, Gerard Giudice and Bill Pettibone, had already been working together in the restaurant and catering industry for more than 15 years when they decided to go into business together.They wanted to create a restaurant with all the best attributes of their previous experiences, one where they could focus on making a difference to people in their biggest life moments, both joyous and poignant. One where they could help people celebrate life and make memories. They also wanted have a stronger focus on community service and philanthropy than previous restaurant employers allowed. Their new restaurant opened in downtown Cotati, in the heart of wine country, in the fall of 2005.They name it Sally Tomatoes after a favorite character in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
As the little deli and catering company grew in popularity, they realized they needed a much bigger space to meet the catering demand.Two years later, Sally Tomatoes moved to the green community of Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, taking over the enormous kitchen to support catering orders and then seizing an opportunity to use the adjoining space for a restaurant. We went from a 600sf deli with 3 tables and a counter to a 20,000sf event center with an industrial kitchen. Our staff has grown from the two founders to 25 employees, many of whom started in high school or college and have stayed on for years, becoming part of the Sally Tomatoes family. We don’t advertise heavily or do a hard sell to get more customers. We prefer to focus on high quality food that’s affordable for everyone and let word of mouth and our customers’ satisfaction with our food and service serve as our most prominent marketing.
As our business grew, our commitment to building and supporting our local community has also grown.We often partner exclusively with local companies and farms for fresh ingredients, event vendors and support. We host fundraisers for nonprofits on Mondays and Tuesdays, donating their time and food to important community causes. Sally Tomatoes was one of the first places to volunteer to be an evacuation center during the recent devastating Santa Rosa fires, which displaced thousands of people. The entire extended Sally Tomatoes family comes together every Thanksgiving morning to roast turkeys, which we deliver to 500 seniors in need, then we host a big Thanksgiving potluck reunion for employees in the afternoon to give thanks together for all that we have. We revel in the personal growth and friendships that have resulted from our ventures and the family we’ve fostered.
Gerard has served the Rohnert Park Cotati Rotary Club for many years, served as one of five planning commissioners in Rohnert Park and supports Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), a local teen homeless shelter, as a board member. He has a soft spot in his heart for young people, who he says often just need to be given a chance and some good mentoring to bloom. Many of our young employees started under his mentorship, stayed on for years and have become like family. Our first employee, Miguel, started as a dishwasher in 2005, then moved up to a cook position and is still with us today.
Bill worked his first catering job when he was 14 years old. Working in restaurants put him through school, where he got a masters degree in finance. After working with Gerard in the restaurant industry a number of times, the two friends realized they had the makings of a lasting partnership: Gerard was outgoing and gregarious, Bill was more serious and detail oriented and they both were bold, competitive and driven by similar values of family, community and celebration. That partnership has lasted nearly two decades and is still going strong.