‘Striking Out Childhood Cancer’: C.K. McClatchy baseball players shave their heads and raise funds for St. Baldrick’s

Thirty members of the C.K. McClatchy High School baseball team and 40 others, including members of the rugby team shaved their heads to help conquer kids’ cancer on Sunday, March 10 at Giovanni’s Pizza in Land Park. / Photos by Monica Stark

Thirty members of the C.K. McClatchy High School baseball team and 40 others, including members of the rugby team shaved their heads to help conquer kids’ cancer on Sunday, March 10 at Giovanni’s Pizza in Land Park. / Photos by Monica Stark

Thirty members of the C.K. McClatchy High School baseball team and 40 others, including members of the rugby team, celebrated St. Patrick’s the bald way by having their heads shaved to help conquer kids’ cancer on Sunday, March 10 at Giovanni’s Pizza in Land Park. Four of the shavees were knighted for participating in St. Baldrick’s for seven years.

Tino getting his head shaved.

Tino getting his head shaved.

The team has participated in St. Baldrick’s year after year since 2008 when Jake Luigi was a freshman on the team. His younger brother Tino had undergone several months of aggressive treatments including chemotherapy, surgeries, a stem cell transplant, and radiation after he was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma cancer (a cancer of the nervous system).

Tino had a large tumor wrapped around his adrenal gland and many of his vital organs. There were cancerous lesions all over his body and his bone marrow was 90 percent cancer cells. Things did not look good for him.

The treatment Tino received had just recently been approved by the Children’s Oncology Group and though it was life threatening, it was the only chance he had to beat this disease.

“By the grace of God he made it through and he is a thriving 17 year old today– cancer free for 11 years,” says his mother Jean Luigi.

“My son is alive today because of the advancements made through research. I will be forever grateful to St. Baldrick’s and the doctors and nurses who dedicate their lives to finding a cure for childhood cancer.”

Tino’s oncologist, Dr. Douglas Taylor from UC Davis, performed the knighting ceremony. Taylor thanked everybody for being a part of the St. Baldrick’s event because more research is needed and he mentioned that pediatrics is an underfunded branch of medicine.

To Jean, having Dr. Taylor knight the shavees gave a face to the cause. “We tell the boys that the sacrifice they make will give funds to doctors researching promising treatments for childhood cancers. Now they get to meet one of these doctors,” she said before the event.

Jean admires the courage of the team every year. “I know it is not an easy decision to shave your head, especially at this age. But year after year, they sign up to support this cause. I admire their courage and willingness to make this sacrifice on behalf of children they don’t even know,” she said.

Head Varsity Baseball Coach at C.K. McClatchy, Mike de Necochea, said when Jean brought the idea of having the team participate in 2008 he was willing to do anything the Luigi’s asked.

Why? Because the Luigi family is more involved in the community than any other family he’s met in Land Park, he said, recalling when Perry Luigi (Espanol Resturant) would donate and cook the annual spaghetti dinner for Crocker-Riverside Elementary school for nearly 15 years.  “This is a huge under taking and the school benefited greatly from their efforts. The Luigi’s were also involved with the local little league and rugby club.  Always lending a hand where needed and helping raise funds for the teams and community,” de Necochea said.

Jean Luigi said the first year, a private event was held right on the varsity baseball field and just about every player and coach shaved their head, raising more than $7,000.  Since 2008, C.K. McClatchy baseball has been helping to “Strike Out Childhood Cancer” every year.  Over the past five years, the team has helped raise more than $47,000 dollars for childhood cancer research, she said.

De Necochea said being a good teammate is putting the good of the team before oneself.  “When one of your players says: ‘My little brother is a cancer survivor thanks to current research and medical developments. We should help other kids with cancer by shaving our heads in exchange for donations and awareness to this worthy cause,’ it speaks volumes. This is what Jake Luigi did in 2008 when speaking about his little brother, Tino.”

So the entire team and coaches joined in the effort and it was an emotional and team bonding experience for everyone.

“The first time it was nerve racking and fun. I think it’s a sacrifice and a very brave act. The awareness a shaved head (especially by someone who usually sports a full head of hair) brings is inspiring.

“The first few years I participated, I found myself explaining the reason behind my bald head to clients, neighbors and friends. Now, it’s kinda of old hat. I get more of ‘Oh you did that cancer benefit thing again.’”

According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website, events of all sizes are held across the country and around the world throughout the year, but March, especially St. Patrick’s Day, is the busiest fundraising season for the Foundation. Funds raised at each event allow the Foundation to award research and infrastructure grants to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer researchers in the world to find cures and improve the quality of life for patients and survivors.

On the Web: www.stbaldricks.org

Sacramento couple to come full circle on Janey Way

From an East Sacramento street that already receives much coverage in this newspaper by way of Marty Relles’ “Janey Way Memories” column, comes yet another memory of the past, as well as a look at the present and planned future.
Tom Hart stands in front of his childhood home on Janey Way in East Sacramento. The house, which is presently being remodeled, is featured through 13 Internet videos. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Tom Hart stands in front of his childhood home on Janey Way in East Sacramento. The house, which is presently being remodeled, is featured through 13 Internet videos. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

For those who either grew up on or near Janey Way or for those familiar with Marty’s column, it should come as no surprise that many people have a very deep-rooted love for this local street.

This fact is even more understandable since the street was constructed more than 60 years ago.

But nonetheless, the great number of stories that derive from Janey Way can seem quite remarkable when considering that the street is a mere 909 feet long and never included more than its current total of 32 houses – three of which are actually duplexes.

Certainly, this article is not intended to replace Marty’s popular column. So, be sure to read his current “Janey Way Memories.”

Instead, this first and only edition of “More Janey Way Memories” is presented solely to tell the story of one more person who grew up on Janey Way and his lifelong love for this East Sacramento street and his current project to preserve a portion of its past.

Tom Hart discusses details of a new addition to his childhood home. / Valley Community Newspapers, Lance Armstrong

Tom Hart discusses details of a new addition to his childhood home. / Valley Community Newspapers, Lance Armstrong

This person is Tom Hart, who grew up on Janey Way.

Tom, 57, who follows Marty’s column, is familiar with many of the column’s related stories and people and can sometimes even read about himself, is working on a project that will bring him back to his old neighborhood.

Dust has been flying, machinery has been running off and on and hammers have been pounding at the old Hart house since last July.

This activity, said Tom, who is of Scottish, Irish and English ancestry, is part of a project that will fulfill his dream to move back into his childhood home, where he grew up with his mother Rose (Hawkins) Hart, his sister – the former Susan Hart, now Susan Chevassau – and for a shorter period of time, his father, Bernie, who passed away in 1961.

“When my mother (who passed away in the home on Dec. 19, 2001) was sick and I was staying with her, we would talk in the evenings and one of the things that I told her is I wanted to move back home,” Tom said. “That really warmed her heart and made her feel happy that her son was going to be moving back home and back into the neighborhood.”

Bernie Hart stands behind his boat and car in the driveway of his Janey Way home in about 1951. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

Bernie Hart stands behind his boat and car in the driveway of his Janey Way home in about 1951. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

The remodeling project includes the addition of about 400 square feet of livable space with the expansion of the living room and master bedroom, a new master bathroom, a new laundry room and the addition of more closet space and a covered porch area behind the house. Additionally, the old garage was demolished and replaced with a two and a half-car garage, the roof and windows were replaced and new insulation was installed throughout the home.

Tom, a 1971 graduate of Sacramento High School, said that although he had hoped to move into the house with his wife Diana by Christmastime, he is now setting a more realistic goal of once again becoming a Janey Way resident by April.

The upgrading of the old Hart house helps to preserve one of the street’s older homes.

Research for this article revealed the following history of Janey Way:

According to the 1949 city directory, the first houses to be built on Janey Way – those of the late 1940s – were the homes of Ross Relles, James Tomassetti, Dante Viani and Jose “Joe” Micheli.

During the time their homes were built, Relles operated his well-known Relles Florist at 2200 J St., Tomassetti was a painter for the Western Pacific Railroad, Viani worked for Koro Products Co. at 2116 19th St. and Micheli was a bartender at the Square Deal Café at 5723 Folsom Blvd., where the Espanol Restaurant is now located.

Bernie Hart enjoys the company of his nephew, Rick Dixon, and his son, Tom Hart, on Christmas day in 1958. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

Bernie Hart enjoys the company of his nephew, Rick Dixon, and his son, Tom Hart, on Christmas day in 1958. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

Apparently, at least two other houses existed on the street during this time, since Louie Viani claims that his house was the first home built on the street and Tom said that he was told by his home’s remodel designer that his house was constructed in 1949. Tom added, however, that the house may not have had any occupants until the following year.

Carmen Tomassetti, who married James Tomassetti on Aug. 14, 1948 and raised five children in her Janey Way home, said that she moved into her then-new house on Dec. 10, 1948.

“My house was built in 1948,” said Carmen, who is a native of Monte Porzio, Italy. “The first houses (on Janey Way) were built in 1948, then little by little different companies built different houses.”

The 1952 city directory shows the growth of the street by this time, as follows: Olin N. Boggs, Joseph C. Brady, Dominic J. Costamagna, Raymond Cullivan, Adelbert C. Jacobs, Richard Kinzel, Jr., Eugene E. McKnight, Jose Micheli, Gene C. O’Keefe, Virgil W. Petrocchi, Mateo Puccetti, Ralph Puccetti, Ross Relles, Joseph C. Romel, Loren E. Sizemore, Eugene R. Thomsen, James Tomassetti, Dante H. Viani, Louie E. Viani and three vacant homes. As an historical note, Janey Way no longer extended south of M Street to include its 1300s addresses by the late 1950s. This property is presently part of the site of St. Mary’s School.

Enzo Costa said that he moved into the neighborhood in 1972 and now lives in the last house that was built on Janey Way. He had the house constructed in 1976.

Neighborhood children gather in front of the Hart house for Tom Hart’s birthday in about 1958. Pictured from left to right are: Berna Tomassetti, Denis Tomassetti, Diana Viani, unidentified, Jennifer “Deedee” DuCray, John DuCray, Tom Hart, John Tomassetti and Josie Tomassetti. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

Neighborhood children gather in front of the Hart house for Tom Hart’s birthday in about 1958. Pictured from left to right are: Berna Tomassetti, Denis Tomassetti, Diana Viani, unidentified, Jennifer “Deedee” DuCray, John DuCray, Tom Hart, John Tomassetti and Josie Tomassetti. / Photo courtesy, Tom Hart

Tom, who with his wife, has three children, Angela, Rebecca and T.J., said that a prime example that his neighborhood is fairly old is the fact that Costa is considered one of Janey Way’s “new kids on the block.”

Costa may have had the last house built in the neighborhood, but as a resident of the street, he has much seniority over a family, for instance, who moved to a house on Janey Way about two years ago.

Fortunately, due to modern technology, most readers who are interested in seeing the old Hart house do not have to go further than their own computers to do so.

In order that Tom’s sister could observe various remodeling stages of the home, Tom has placed footage of these remodeling stages on the Web site www.youtube.com. The short videos, which currently present 13 remodeling stages, can be found using the search words: “Hart Janey Way remodel.”

Tom plans to load seven more videos onto the site to show a full-range summary of the project. He also plans to eventually take the main highlights of all his videos and combine them to create a 15-minute video that he will also post on the Web site.

Tom said that the simple fact that he desires to move back to his childhood house shows how special the home and its neighborhood and residents are in his heart.

“I just have so many fond memories of the place,” Tom said. “I’m coming full circle. My kids have grown and now I have a chance to come back home to be where still many of the neighbors live. Where, when I was smaller, these neighbors would take care of me, now I’m coming back home, so I can take care of them.”

lance@valcomnews.com

Español Restaurant has century-old roots in East Sacramento

When it comes to Sacramento history, few places in the city have such a rich heritage as the Español Restaurant.

Pictured left to right, Paula (Luigi) Serrano, Perry Luigi and Karen (Luigi) Zito are the owners of East Sacramento’s historic Español Restaurant at 58th Street and Folsom Boulevard. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Pictured left to right, Paula (Luigi) Serrano, Perry Luigi and Karen (Luigi) Zito are the owners of East Sacramento’s historic Español Restaurant at 58th Street and Folsom Boulevard. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
To the average commuter, this East Sacramento eatery’s historic building and its accompanying old neon sign have the appearance of a business that has stood the test of time.

Although such an impression is undoubtedly correct, the historic building and sign represent only a part of this restaurant’s rich past.

With a few steps inside this old building at 5723 Folsom Blvd., which was built in 1946 as the new home of the Square Deal Café, one can observe a business that is swarming with history.

Immediately inside the front doors of the place, black and white photographs of days of old begin to tell the story of a business that began long before it opened at its current site in 1965.

Hanging on the walls of the lobby area, which is an addition to the original structure, are photographs of the business’s previous site at 231 I St., as well as other images such as photographs of members of the Luigi family. The business is currently owned by Perry Luigi, Paula (Luigi) Serrano and Karen (Luigi) Zito, whose father Frank “Babe” Luigi and uncle Mario Luigi previously owned the business.

The longtime tradition of the restaurant, however, began long before Babe and Mario purchased the business in 1959.

The restaurant, in fact, was established in an even earlier location than the 2nd and I streets site, near today’s historic Southern Pacific train depot.

 

Español of yesteryear

During the 19th century, the city was home to many hotels such as the Pacific Hotel at 916-918 11th St., the International Hotel at 320-326 K St. and the Tremont Hotel at 112-114 J St.

At the site of the Tremont Hotel, a new hotel, known as Hotel Español, emerged as early as 1919.

Español Restaurant was located in the Commercial Hotel building from 1952 to 1965. (Photo courtesy of Español Restaurant)
Español Restaurant was located in the Commercial Hotel building from 1952 to 1965. (Photo courtesy of Español Restaurant)
The Hotel Español, which was primarily operated as a Basque boarding house, was initially home to sheepherders who were hired out to local ranchers.

It was at this hotel, which in its early years was owned by Victoriano Urrutia and then Castro Arrate and Mamerto Fernandez, that the Español Restaurant began to evolve.

On the ground floor of the large, brick building, food such as oxtail stew, pig knuckles, lamb fries, lamb chops, tripe, chicken and veal were prepared and cooked for the Basque tenants.

News of these meals eventually made its way to many outsiders of the building, as others were introduced to the boarders’ food and the eatery increased in popularity.

During the early 1930s, the well-known Sacramentan Ancil Hoffman, who has a park named in his honor in Carmichael, became the owner of the building.

With the 1952 sale of the Hotel Español building, the Español Restaurant was relocated to the Commercial Hotel, which had been constructed about 15 years earlier.

This move was arranged following Arrate’s retirement and under the direction of the restaurant’s chef Joe Trueba and his close friend, Joe Martinez.

The restaurant, which continued to increase in popularity and serve Basque tenants who relocated to the Commercial Hotel, was operated by Trueba and Martinez until the business’s sale to Babe and Mario Luigi, who brought in the eatery’s Italian food offerings.

The development of Old Sacramento, which included the nearby extension of Interstate 5, resulted in the second relocation of the restaurant within a 13-year span of time.

 

Moving to East Sac

Opening at its current site in 1965, the Español Restaurant, despite no longer serving unique food to Basque hotel tenants, carried forth many of its traditions in East Sacramento, near the historic Little Italy neighborhood.

A group consisting of various Mexican organizations gather together at the second location of the restaurant during a visit by Mexican Consulate Dominguez. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
A group consisting of various Mexican organizations gather together at the second location of the restaurant during a visit by Mexican Consulate Dominguez. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Among these traditions included the presence of the popular waitress Mary Trabazo, who worked at all three sites of the restaurant.

Beginning her career with the Español in 1936, Trabazo retired from the restaurant 52 years later.

Waitress Leah Alcanter also dedicated her fair share of time as an Español waitress, as she worked at the restaurant for 35 years.

Many other employees, including 26-year waitress Diane Lara and 25-year dishwasher David Larsen, have spent many years at the restaurant throughout its history.

This history includes various famous diners such as actress Ann Sothern, actor Leo Carrillo, singer Frankie Laine, boxer Max Baer, flamenco dancer Jose Greco, Gov. Earl Warren and Secretary of State Frank Jordan, Sr.

East Sacramento native Willie DaPrato, who was part owner of the restaurant with Babe and Mario from 1978 to 1985, said that he enjoyed working with the Luigi family.

“I had a great time and (Babe and Mario) were two wonderful people,” DaPrato said. “I had no problems. I went in on a handshake and I left on a handshake. Every now and again, I still drop into the restaurant. It’s one of the finest family-owned restaurants in town with lots of home-style cooked food and it’s just very good.”

On Jan 1, 1988, Perry, Paula and Karen, who began assisting their father at the restaurant as children, purchased the Español from Babe, who passed away three months later.

Louise Luigi said that she is proud of her children’s accomplishments as owners of the restaurant.

“They have done a wonderful job running the place and my husband (Babe) would be very proud to see that it is continuing on today,” Louise said.

With a look around the Español on any given day, one can observe people who have been dining at the restaurant for many years, as well as those who are much newer guests of the establishment, which also includes a popular bar.

 

Rave reviews

Español customer Mary Giacomotto said that she has been enjoying visiting the restaurant since it was located at 231 I St.

Guests dine inside the Español Restaurant on Folsom Boulevard. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Guests dine inside the Español Restaurant on Folsom Boulevard. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
“In the old days, it was wonderful just going (to the restaurant) with our parents and (Rosemary and Ted Lehy) and their children,” Giacomotto said. “It was very family-oriented and we would sit and have (soup) and wait for our parents to return from the bar. I also remember how my father (John Bateman) would start to sing there (at the restaurant) and then we would all sing and everybody around us would sing. Those were wonderful, wonderful times.”

Perry said that the secret of the restaurant’s longtime success is its traditional, family-style Italian dishes, as well as its great value and fine service.

The Español offers dishes ranging from veal cutlets and chicken cacciatore with polenta to cheese ravioli pesto and lasagna. Guests can also enjoy traditional spaghetti and raviolis with meat sauce.

Also among the restaurant’s many menu items is its famous minestrone soup, Perry explained.

“People come from miles around to buy our minestrone soup-to-go for their dinners and family functions such as Christmas Eve,” Perry said. “I think I sell more soup than any restaurant in Sacramento.”

Complete lunches and dinners include tureen of minestrone soup, salad, an entrée of one’s choice, pasta, vegetables, coffee or iced tea and spumoni.

Prices for these lunches range from $9 to $11 and the dinner prices range from $15 to $20. And for those who prefer a lighter meal, soups and salads cost about $5.

The restaurant also includes the following daily specials: roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy on Tuesdays, veal stew on Wednesdays, corned beef and cabbage on Thursdays and meatloaf on Fridays.

Paula said that people are attracted to the restaurant, in general, because it reminds them of the traditional, family-style restaurants of New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

“It reminds them of the Godfather-type restaurants,” Perry added with a chuckle.

Español Restaurant, which has a seating capacity of 160, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Perry said that he takes great pride in carrying forth the tradition of what he refers to as “the Italian restaurant with a Spanish name.”

“We’re proud of our long history in East Sacramento, as well as the Old Sacramento area, and we invite people to take a step back in time and drive to East Sacramento to enjoy Sacramento’s oldest restaurant,” Perry said. “Come on in, join us and experience traditional, family-style cooking and be part of the Español family.”

For additional information about Español Restaurant, call (916) 457-1936.

 

E-mail Lance with lance@valcomnews.com.