Lorenzo "Dal" Dall’Armi passed away on March 8, 2014. He was 91 years young.
He was born Dec. 24, 1922, at the San Ysidro Guest Ranch to Italian immigrant parents Lorenzo and Giuditta Dall’Armi, who worked at the ranch as a domestic and a stonemason. 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.
Upon returning to 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 at City College, voters endorsed a successful $5.5 million bond issue, which ensured the completion of the SBCC campus.
Following that, he was elected Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools in 1970, and served in that position until his retirement in 1982. During that time, he was also president of the California Association of County School Superintendents. Dal’s entire education career was characterized by his inspiration, dedication and excellence.
Throughout his years as a distinguished educator, and then later 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 the opportunities for the socially disadvantaged and disenfranchised.
Among others, he served on the Board of Directors for the Alice T. Tuohy Foundation, Work Training Inc., Goleta Valley Hospital, United Way, the American Red Cross, Laguna Blanca School, Marymount of Santa Barbara, Mt. Carmel School, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, 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 semi-professional 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, and he played as a member of the Hollywood YMCA six-man team, which won two national championships. Late in life, he became an avid golfer, eventually earning a single-digit handicap, and playing locally until his late 80s.
Dal and Patricia Clark were married in 1952, having 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 (deceased 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 have lived in for the past 35 years.
Once retired and living at the beach, Dal focused his energy on food, family and friends. He had grown up in a classic Italian home, and he began to re-create the amazing culinary experiences he remembered from his childhood. Over the years, his cooking skills, which originally focused on barbecuing, expanded to include homemade pastas of all kinds, 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 at a time orchestrating the meal.
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. He would include them in many of his slow-cooked meat dishes or with his polenta. On Saturday mornings, he was a constant at the farmer’s market, commonly in the company of 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. Every Sunday there would be a true Italian feast at their home 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 homecooked meal and a hug.
Dal loved to entertain. His formula was very simple: Provide the best food, 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 that which involved 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. 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 always true to his convictions, principled and fearless in defense of what he felt was right. He was stubborn almost to a fault, and was always both frustratingly and delightfully true to his beliefs. 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.
Friends and family are invited to attend a memorial service at Rose Story Farm at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 16. A Rosary and Mass will be said at St. Joseph’s Church in Carpinteria at 10 a.m. Monday, March 17.
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 local students of need who wish to pursue a career in the culinary arts.