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Bueno Italiano Café: Culinary Magic and the Distinct Flavors of Old Italy

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“When you walk in, we want you to feel like you’re in our home, not a restaurant,” smiled Sara Coldani Randall. 

Sara and her daughter, Heather Getz, use recipes for the exquisite dishes they prepare for customers of Bueno Italiano Café that have been handed down to them through the generations. They’re from a cookbook that Sara’s mother, Barbara Coldani, and grandmother, Vera Garibaldi, passed down to her. It is 85 years old. 

Barbara passed away in April, and Sara credits her for continuing the legacy with her cooking skills. She cared for Barbara before her death at age 90 and now, in tribute to her mom, she’s going full steam ahead with the restaurant.

And that’s lucky for all those who dine here. They truly cook old-school Italian comfort food, as is evidenced by the crowds that fill each table, inside and on the lovely, uniquely decorated patio. This space is conducive to conversation and memories over plates of goodness.

Heather prepares most of the dishes, including her out-of-this-world hand-rolled cannolis and pies, which are delicious with one of their special coffees. She and her husband, Kyle, do a lot of the home chef catering, which is popular during the holidays. Heather and Kyle have an adorable son, Levi Raymond, 9 months. “He’s named after my dad,” Sara smiled. Sara’s husband, Richard, helps out with the restaurant too.

Sara hasn’t always been a restaurant owner. She farmed alfalfa with her father for 14 years, and her family owned a real estate company, so she had her real estate license for 25 years, mostly working in property management. “As Italians, we usually follow in our family’s business,” she continued.  

Be sure and order the minestrone soup and follow up with the eggplant parmesan. The meat sauce, or “gravy,” as they call it, is unique with old Italian flavors. Everything is cooked to order, and they welcome customers to bring in wild game and they will prepare it. Bueno Italiano Café is famous for their smoked tri-tip roast, which is smoked in-house.

“I have customers come in and say, ‘This tastes just like my mother’s did!’ Most of our recipes are simple, with only five or six ingredients, and my signature meat sauce has very few ingredients and takes just one hour,” she discussed. “We live on a ranch, so we are able to grow fresh organic vegetables to cook with, including basil, tomatoes and more.”

Sara noted that being a woman-owned business has its challenges, and because they have such an interesting location, word of mouth is very valuable to them. She knows a restaurant’s food quality and consistency are key. Plus, Bueno Italiano Café offers personal service because that’s what she likes to do. “If a customer can’t come in, I’ll deliver to them. We also do office deliveries, hospitals and wineries, and I cook for a local high school cafeteria once a week,” she added. “We cooked 150 pounds of deep-fried calamari for last summer’s Italian Festival and around 500 cannolis!”

During November and December, they prepare special holiday packages, including Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Customers can order pies and holiday cannolis as well. “We rent our beautiful patio out for private parties celebrating all types of events, including baby showers, rehearsal dinners, weddings, funerals and more. We can comfortably seat 50,” she related. “We are actually the only rooftop restaurant in town, because we are on the second floor! With all that has happened since we opened, I’m proud to say we’re still standing!”

Step inside this Italian family’s home at Bueno Italiano Café. Your taste buds will never be the same!

Bueno Italiano Café is located at 1110 W. Kettleman Lane in Lodi. Find them on Facebook or call them at 209-369-1446. Open Monday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., closed weekends.