The building that currently houses Ratto’s was constructed in 1876 for the Winsor Hotel, primarily a residential hotel. This drawing from 1896 also shows a dome on top of the building which is no longer there, and Theodore Gier Co., a prominent wine merchant, as a ground level tenant.
Ratto’s was founded in 1897 by Giovanni Battista Ratto (John the Baptist Ratto), an immigrant from Italy. After spending time in Argentina working as a gaucho (cowboy), he came to San Francisco. He got a job working for a prominent farmer, who supplied the produce needs of the most luxurious restaurants and hotels in pre-1906 earthquake SF.
Giovanni ended up marrying the farmer’s daughter, Rose Garbarino. He decided to open a store on Washington (down the street from this location), featuring imported foodstuffs so immigrants could get a “taste of home”. The business is now one of the oldest in Oakland, still run by family over 120 years later!
If Ratto’s is open, head in for a bite to eat and a quick look around. They’ve got photos of Giovanni, Rose, and the earlier location on display.
A young Italian’s quest
Once a Ratto’s tradition:
Wednesdays for pesto,
Saturdays for opera
Bay Area’s world food landmark since 1887