Italian celebration held in tradition of Giuseppe Murer

By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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Guests gathered at tables on the lawn and under the grape arbor at the Fall Festa 2011 on Oct. 8. Accordian music and operatic singing added to the Italian flavor — as did the espresso maker. Giuseppe “Joe” Murer came to the United States in 1906, at the age of 21, from his home in Crespano del Grappa, Italy. He was a builder, and from 1908 he spent the next 63 years constructing a number of buildings on historic Sutter Street. Murer died in 1972. “Those Italians always planted a lot of food,” said Cindy Baker, President of the Murer House Foundation. Trees on the grounds include English walnuts, winter pear, strawberry guava, hazelnut, olive and pomegranate. It could have been in Italy. The late afternoon sun warmed the garden and shone on Murer’s home, which he built around 1927. Also around that time, Murer started yearly dinner celebrations for the Italian community. “It was this big tradition,” said Baker. “All the Italians would come up to Joe’s house each year. … For 30 years, this was the place where the Italians all came. So to do a fundraiser we thought, let’s do what they used to do and have a nice family style Italian meal with accordion music, and we have an Italian singer here who’s going to sing all the traditional Italian songs.” The singer was Pete Rossi. He and his wife Emily came to the Murer House for the first time for this event. “I got to meet Franca (Lingren) and Franca introduced me to Cindy Baker, and we talked about how she wanted some things catered from our restaurant,” Emily Rossi said. Ron Lingren brought his own espresso maker. Since his retirement from Folsom Cordova Unified School District, he has been spending two days a week restoring vintage espresso machines. Vineli’s Handcrafted Coffee in Rocklin provided the coffee. Pat Zanetta, 82, and several others who attended actually went to Murer’s dinners years ago. “My father-in-law Antonio Zanetta stuccoed the Murer house, in 1927, I think,” Pat Zanetta said. April Orsi, 91, daughter of Orsi Olive Oil Company founder Angelo Orsi, came regularly to the Italian community gatherings, and knew Murer well. “His nephew lived across the street from us,” April Orsi said. April’s sister May Marsalla, 99, was at the 2011 Festa as well. “I took care of the books for Joe’s business and ran errands,” Marsalla said. “My husband, Elio, played the accordion (at the dinners).” Around 4 p.m. the live music began with Dave Chelini on the accordion and singer Pete Rossi, both of Sacramento. “I played accordion since I was a child,” Chelini said. “I had a band until I was about 40 years old, then put the accordion away for 20 years, and came back to it after my retirement.” For Rossi, necessity put the singing on hold while he raised a family. “I used to do a lot of singing on the side,” he said. “I like to do classic, semi-classic, opera.” Rossi’s restaurant, Vince’s Ristorante in West Sacramento, provided the entrées for the dinner. The meal was served in courses, beginning with antipasti, then mixed green salad, next lasagna and chicken marsala, topped off with Franca Lingren’s tiramisu. “This is the first year we’ve done it in this style and next year will be bigger and better,” said board member Philip Rose. Some of Giuseppe Murer’s history and accomplishments can be seen at