Lorenzo “Dal” Dall’Armi passed away on March 8, 2014. He was 91 years young. He was born at the San Ysidro Guest Ranch to Italian immigrant parents, Lorenzo and Giuditta Dall’Armi, who worked at the ranch as a stonemason and a domestic. When Dal was just a few months old, his family moved back to their home in Crespano del Grappa, in the mountains north of Venice, where they lived until the political and social upheaval of Mussolini’s rising power brought them back to Santa Barbara in 1931.
After attending local public schools, Dal enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. He served for four years, returning to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB, where he earned a degree in education in 1947. That same year, he began his nearly 20-year teaching career, initially in Carpinteria and later in Santa Barbara schools, taking leave only to earn his master’s degree at USC.
Back in Santa Barbara, he transitioned into administrative work, beginning as principal of Washington Elementary School and ultimately becoming president of Santa Barbara City College in 1968. Under his leadership, voters endorsed a $5.5 million bond issue, which assured the completion of SBCC’s campus. He was then elected Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools in 1970 and served until his retirement in 1982. During that time, he was also president of the California Association of County School Superintendents. Dal’s education career was characterized by his inspiration, dedication, and excellence.
Throughout his years as a distinguished educator and after his retirement, he was continuously involved as a community volunteer and served on many public and private boards where his reasoned advice and commitment were greatly valued. His was a constant voice to uphold and advance opportunities for the socially disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Among others, he served on the board of directors for the Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation, Work Training Inc., Goleta Valley Hospital, United Way, the American Red Cross, Laguna Blanca School, Marymount School, Mt. Carmel School, Recording for the Blind, and the Santa Barbara Humane Society.
Physically very imposing, he was a magnificent athlete and competitor throughout his life. He was a tennis star at Santa Barbara High School and won the conference doubles championships while attending UCSB. He played semiprofessional basketball and was a member of the traveling team that competed against the Harlem Globetrotters. He excelled at volleyball, winning both local and Southern California two-man beach championships, as well as two national championships on the Hollywood YMCA six-man team. Late in life, he became an avid golfer and earned a single-digit handicap as he played into his late eighties.
Dal and Patricia Clark were married in 1952; they met on East Beach, where he was a volleyball “stud” and she was a UCSB bathing beauty coed. They rented a small cottage on Padaro Lane, where their beachside entertaining became legendary. With the help of Dal’s father and brother Peter (who died in 1961), they built their family home on Barker Pass in Montecito. Innovative in both design and functionality, the home became the destination for countless Sunday family dinners and social occasions. When the 1977 Sycamore Fire burned the house to the ground, they moved to a rental on Miramar Beach, which they later purchased and lived in for the past 35 years.
Dal had grown up in a classic Italian home, and once retired, he began to re-create the amazing culinary experiences he remembered from his childhood. His cooking skills, which originally focused on barbequing, expanded to include homemade pastas, original slow-cooked casseroles, and very special game dinners, always simple, and with the freshest ingredients available. He continued to create and perfect recipes, sometimes spending days orchestrating meals for family and friends. Each year after the winter rains, Dal would hike the local hills in search of chanterelles or, even more to his liking, the under-appreciated and generally overlooked honey mushroom. These he would include in many of his slow-cooked meat dishes or with his polenta.
He was a constant at the Saturday morning Farmers Market, commonly in the company of his wife, Patti, and Julia Child, who was a great fan and friend. Farmers knew him by name and set aside his favorite produce. His tastes were somewhat eclectic and often unusual, Savoy cabbage and Romano beans being two of his favorites. Sundays brought a true Italian feast with great food, wine, companionship, laughter, and conversation, frequently loud and often controversial, with Dal at the head of the table.
His family was his greatest pride. For his children and grandchildren, he was the patriarch, an inspiration and source of strength. He supported each of them unconditionally and gave to each the knowledge that they were indeed very special and capable of greatness. They provided him his most cherished moments later in life. He took delight in their every achievement. As each grandchild returned home, their first stop was to “Dal Pasta and Patti Pie’s” house for a home-cooked meal and a hug.
Dal loved to entertain. His formula was very simple: Provide the best food and the best wine, and be certain there was plenty of both. He enjoyed music, especially that of the Big Band era, and he loved to dance. He was up to date on all current events, staying abreast of both local and national news, especially politics. He was a fine writer and had great respect for the English language, which he had learned after Italian. A man who enjoyed public speaking, he had a booming voice and impeccable delivery that combined both force and character.
To his friends, he was a mentor and a companion, a generous host, and a man of great honesty and integrity. Though he was at times a bit gruff, wit and humor were just below the surface, and he did not hesitate to poke fun at himself. He was an original, and to all who knew him, his friends, his family, and this community, which he loved, he will be missed.
Dal leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Patricia, his daughters Danielle Hahn (Dr. William Hahn) and Nina Dall’Armi (Bob Bonhof), nieces Pamela Lugo and Corinne Bellaart, and grandchildren Will Hahn, Miri Sunkel, and Geoffrey Hahn.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Lorenzo Dall’Armi Culinary Scholarship Fund (c/o the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, P.O. Box 3620, Santa Barbara, CA 93130), which will benefit area students of need who wish to pursue a career in the culinary arts.