ON THE COVER: Half a Century of Family Pride

Multiple Generations of the Mattera family: back row: Sabrena Sasso, Vince Mattera, Jr., Renee Mattera-Camello, Susan Mattera, Mariea Mattera, Gennaro Camello, Matt Mattera; front row: Natalie Mattera, Vanessa Camello, Angie Mattera, Nicolette Mattera, Noelle Mattera. Picture frame: Vince Mattera, Sr. (Not pictured: Malissa Moran) (photos by John Mattera)

For the Sorrento family, it has always been about hard work, and with that came dedication to a family business that started small and has now become a staple in San Pedro.

The Mattera family has always stood not only behind, but with their father. Each of them grew up in the business, and all had the same goal – be a part of the business to the end. Eating, sleeping and breathing Sorrento’s Pizza House, the name it was founded under in 1962, has been the family motto. But as the dream grew, so did the restaurant, and with growth came a name change — Sorrento’s Italian Restaurant.

It started as a small, quaint restaurant focused on pizza, pasta and sandwiches. But it has grown into a large restaurant, with an extensive Italian menu. Mattera Sr. took the growth in stride, grew his staff and used the growth to instill in everyone he could his ideals of hard work and dedication.

“My husband always felt that work kept everyone out of trouble,” Mattera’s wife, Angie says. “In his mind, it was never too early for a kid to learn about work ethic – it was never too early to learn the value of a dollar.” This was true until the day he died. But he didn’t want to just instill these ideals into his children and his family, but to the community of San Pedro, as well.

Mattera Sr. retired from the restaurant in 2007, but even after he handed the reins over to his family, he was still a fixture. So upon his passing in July of 2011, his loss not only hit his family, but the entire community that had grown to know and love him.

Mattera’s wife describes him as a hard working, dedicated, family man. She says that he left not only his family, but also all those who had the privilege of knowing him, valuable life lessons, and amazing food. Even after his passing, the family carried on the tradition of good, hearty, Italian cuisine through the dream that Mattera started 50 years ago.

His personal motto: Whatever job you have, whether large or small, you must do to the best of your ability. It’s this motto that his family hopes to continue to instill in their staff and their beloved San Pedro community. Angie Mattera says that as times change, and generations pass, so does the pride in that one used to take in their work.

“We always believed in instilling a strong work ethic in our children, and any employee whose path we were fortune enough to cross,” she says. “Every single employee at Sorrento’s is valuable and important, and that goes for every job out there.”

Murals of Italy decorate the interior of the restaurant.

Sorrento’s Italian Restaurant, a true family-run business, was the epitome of hard work – and it’s this that will be celebrated during the restaurant’s upcoming 50th anniversary in October.

The Sorrento family members have become pseudo-celebrities in San Pedro through the years. Each and every member of the Sorrento family has been involved in the restaurant in some way or another since its inception.

Renee Mattera, Vince’s daughter, fondly remembers being recognized in Las Vegas as the “spaghetti girl.”

“I’ll never forget it,” she says. “I was walking through a casino in Las Vegas, and a lovely old couple recognized me. The gentleman said, ‘Look, there’s the spaghetti girl,’” she recalls.

But it’s not just the family and Italian food that brings Sorrento’s the attention; it is also their generous contributions to the community through various donations and fundraisers.

“Over the years, we have done quite a few fundraisers, and we have tried to donate to as many causes as we can,” says Mariea Mattera, wife of Vince Mattera, Jr., the current General Manager. “San Pedro has always been our home and we take pride in being able to give back the community that has given us so much.”

Although giving back is an important part of reaching the heights of success in any business, it certainly isn’t what has kept the restaurant going for 50 years. When asked what the most important part of Sorrento’s longevity of success, the family all says with great pride, “portions.”

Vince Mattera, Sr., from the beginning, was a fixture in the kitchen. His wife says he loved to cook, whether at the restaurant, at home or at a friend’s place, he was “at home in the kitchen.” The recipes that make up Sorrento’s menu were all Vince’s, his family says.

“Early in his career he was appointed one of the cooks on a fishing boat,” Renee Mattera says. “He was young, but he loved it and that is really where his passion started. We grew up watching our dad in the kitchen.”
Mariea Mattera adds, “All the grandchildren spent their time watching him cook, they found it way more interesting that cartoons.”

With portions this big, it’s tough to walk out of Sorrento’s hungry.

Passing these recipes on, and teaching and molding his staff was never a problem for Vince. He communicated each and every recipe and worked with his staff until it was perfect. It was this communication and camaraderie that kept his staff coming back. The majority of the employees at Sorrento’s have been a part of the “family” for years – they are as loyal as can be, Angie Mattera says.

Rod Hernandez, for example, has been one of our cooks for 28 years,” she says. “We appreciate our staff, they are our family, and they are a big part of our success.” It is this loyalty that the family says has meant the most to them throughout the years.

As the family gears up to celebrate its 50th year in business, they struggle knowing that Vince Mattera, Sr. is not around to celebrate with them. But they know he would be proud.

“He would have been so proud,” Angie Mattera says with tears in her eyes. “He would have loved celebrating the 50th, and we will all be thinking of him, as we always do.”

Actual celebration plans have not been decided, but the family knows they are approaching on a milestone that is becoming less and less common. They plan on making sure the community of San Pedro knows how much they appreciate the support, as they say they are “overwhelmed with the gratitude and loyalty throughout the years.” spt

BREAKING: Taste in San Pedro RESCHEDULED

The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce just released a statement regarding the cancellation of this year’s Taste in San Pedro.

(SAN PEDRO, CA) Inspired by the community response to the successful Swingin’ Salute in Downtown on July 6th, and the addition of new attractions to the LA Waterfront, the Board and Staff are eager to regroup and redefine the Taste in San Pedro to meet the needs of the community, our vendors, and the financial needs of the Chamber.

In light of this regrouping and after careful consideration, the Board of Directors of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce has made a decision to reschedule this year’s Taste in San Pedro, that was originally scheduled for August 3rd and 4th. Many factors contributed to this decision most notable were financial constraints resulting from the current economic climate, and the inability to host the event on Sunday this year at the Ports O’ Call location.

The Chamber thanks their previous Taste supporters and invites everyone to be on the alert for news of the New Taste in San Pedro.

The rescheduled date is yet to be determined.

Softball Tourney Continues Rossi Legacy

Ryan Rossi, pictured here in El Salvador, lost his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Dec. 11, 2011. (photo by Taso Papadakis)

Leaving a footprint, a legacy, a lasting impression will at some point cross the mind of each person on this earth. For some though, it’s just a thought. And for others, sadly, it is a thought they won’t see brought to reality.

For Ryan Rossi, it was a dream, a dream that before his tragic death became reality. A dream, that six months after his death, is still living on, along with his legacy through the hard work and dedication of his family, friends and community.

Rossi, a devoted musician and semi professional soccer player, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Dec. 11, 2011, but not before starting a legacy that is continuing on.

20k Watts, an Artist Eco Alliance, started by Rossi, his father Leo Rossi, and fellow musician JR Richards, was founded after a trip to El Salvador where the the site of the conditions people lived in struck a cord so deep that not helping wasn’t an option.

After their trip they described some of what they saw, saying that the hospital walls were covered in an oily film from kerosene lamps. That hundreds of children were suffering from respiratory problems that not only affects the quality of their life, but the length.

It wasn’t until they landed back in California, that they had a plan — they were going to eradicate the use of kerosene lamps in the villages of El Salvador.

The outlet to raise the money was close to their hearts — music.

Two months after inception, and going strong with their aim to replace the kerosene lamps with renewable energy lamps, tragedy struck. Rossi was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but the diagnosis didn’t halt the cause, or Rossi for that matter.

His motto, “Just Love It,” and his remarkable passion and spirit kept Rossi going. He worked through the good days and the bad, and battled the best he could and through it all remained fully committed to the cause.

Rossi made it clear that he didn’t want to be mourned, he wanted to be celebrated. This prompted his friends, family and community to hold a charity concert in his honor — another example of Rossi’s passion to give back.

But the community wasn’t done yet.

Rossi’s uncle, Mike Durbin, who has played in every charity softball tournament in the area, wanted to a host a tournament for his nephew. And that’s exactly what he did. He held a small charity tournament in January, that raised enough money to replace lamps, and relight up 10 villages in El Salvador.

“It was such a great success that I knew immediately that we would do it annually,” said Durbin. “But we didn’t want to wait until January, we wanted to have a big summer party for Ryan.”

Under the same name, the “Ryan Rossi ‘Just Love It’ Summer Bash Co-Ed Softball Tournament” will take place on July 14 and 15 at Stevenson Park in Carson.

It will be a 16-team, double elimination tournament, that will start at 8 a.m. on both days. There are still spots available for teams to enter.

In addition to the softball, there will also be a DJ, raffles, jump houses for the children and plenty of food, including authentic El Salvadorian cuisine from Tala’s Restaurant, which will donate a portion of their proceeds to 20K Watts.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate someone’s life than getting friends and family together and playing softball for a cause that is so great,” Durbin said. “We are so thankful for everyone in the community that has donated or gotten involved in any way, shape or form. This is really a great cause and we appreciate all the help.” spt

For more information about the tournament or the cause, to get involved, donate or sponsor a team, please contact Mike Durbin at (310) 218-8371 or e-mail him at DaddyDurb@hotmail.com.

ON THE COVER: She’s Here! The USS Iowa Arrives in the Port of Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - The USS Iowa sits in its permanent location at Berth 87 in the Port of L.A. The battleship officially opens to the public on July 7. (photo by John Mattera)

THE USS IOWA ARRIVES CARRYING WITH IT THE HOPES AND DREAMS OF A PROSPEROUS FUTURE FOR SAN PEDRO

Robert Kent stands with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the eleventh level atop the USS Iowa as it makes its final journey down San Pedro’s Main Channel. On shore, thousands of cheering spectators line Harbor Blvd. for a view of the ship’s arrival; it’s a proud day for the community that rallied together for a piece of military history. The WWII era battleship is finally making its home at Berth 87 in the Port of Los Angeles, where it will open as a museum ship this month.

Only two short years ago, Kent was pulling together every resource he could to convince the Port to reconsider making room for a battleship. “It’s real satisfaction,” he says, “We’re home. Our mission was accomplished.”

Veterans, dignitaries and community leaders roam the ship’s lower levels, getting a sneak peak before the ship opens to the public on July 7.

On the main deck, Yolanda Valle-Sedillo shows off a photo album of her older brother Charlie on the Iowa during the Korean War. He is among many veterans on board today wearing hats identifying their ships of service. “I remember seeing him in uniform coming up Sixth Street,” Valle-Sedillo says. “I thought, ‘Oh there’s my brother, he’s so handsome!’”

Robert Kent, president of the Pacific Battleship Center stands with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (photo by Joshua Stecker)

Charlie points down at the decks he hasn’t stood on for years. “They didn’t look like that!” he laughs. “We had a lot of fun out here. We had movies and you could even get a malt or a sundae. We had our own laundromat. This thing was a floating hotel!”

He and other Iowa veterans will be back in early July for a reunion. They’ll have access to the ship before it’s opened for public tours.

“We’ve created a tour called Tour Alpha, which is basically a trek around the ship all the way from the main deck, up to the flying bridge,” says Kent, President of the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center, which runs the museum. “You get to see pretty much everything on the outside of the ship and then we’re allowing people to go inside into the main bridge, to the captain’s cabin and the officers boardroom.”

He’s crossing his fingers that the tour will also get to cover the crew’s galley.

Tour goers are strongly encouraged to buy tickets online ahead of time since space is limited. Four additional tours are also in the works, but each costs about a million dollars to put on. Kent hopes the next general tour will be open by next summer.

Half a Century of Service

Built in Brooklyn in 1940 for a cost of $110 million (it would cost $2.5 billion in today’s dollars to replace it), the USS Iowa was the lead ship of its class of fast battleships; so advanced that it was used for more than 50 years. The more than 15-story, 887 ft. long battleship was the fastest and most powerful of its time, nicknamed “The Big Stick.”

The ship earned 11 battle stars for its service, beginning in the Pacific Theater in WWII. It saw action again in the Korean War and was recommissioned for use in the Cold War. In 1989, a turret explosion killed 47 crewmen on the ship off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Saturday, June 2, 2012: The USS Iowa is towed past Angel’s Gate Lighthouse and into the Port of L.A. for the first time. (photo by John Mattera)

The Iowa hosted more U.S. presidents than any other battleship, beginning in 1943, when it transported President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a secret meeting in Tehran with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kaishek. A special bathtub was added to accommodate Roosevelt, who suffered from polio.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan boarded the Iowa to celebrate the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty. President George H.W. Bush went on the ship twice, first for its recommissioning in 1984 and again for the memorial service for the crewmen who perished in 1989.

Saturday, June 9, 2012: (Left) More than 800 specially invited guests board the USS Iowa for its final voyage into the Main Channel. (photo by Joshua Stecker)

From Mothball Fleet to Museum

By 2001, the Iowa had joined other mothballed vessels on reserve in the Suisun Bay near San Francisco. Four years later, it was struck from the Naval Registry, becoming the last remaining battleship available for donation to become a naval museum. Groups in Stockton, San Francisco and Vallejo took interest.

Kent, who had successfully helped find homes for other decommissioned warships, originally worked with the group in Vallejo. But its bid was denied in 2007 over concerns

about fundraising needed for a massive dredging project. Kent decided Los Angeles was the best bet to save the Iowa from being scrapped. In 2009, he formed the Pacific Battleship Center and began looking for fundraising and real estate in the Port of Los Angeles.

In early 2010, he made a proposal to the Port to provide a berthing site for the battleship, but it was struck down, citing interference with waterfront redevelopment.

A few months later, the Navy put out another call for bids. With a deadline in sight, Kent turned to the community to rally support for his proposal. It would take a lot of convincing to get the Port to reconsider; a museum ship wouldn’t be a moneymaker for the Port as much as it would be for San Pedro.

“Once the Port said no, I went to the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council and they passed a vote to support this project. Then right after that we were invited to the other neighborhood councils and it was pretty much unanimous support,” Kent recalls.

The response from not only San Pedro, but the entire Harbor Community was overwhelmingly supportive. Soon residents were collecting hundreds of petition signatures to sway the Port. Mayor Villaraigosa pledged his support and then-Councilwoman Janice Hahn got the L.A. City Council to pass a resolution backing the proposal. Endorsements even came from President George H.W. Bush and FDR’s grandson, H. Delano Roosevelt.

“At that point, the Harbor Commission was on notice that this really was a City and community-based supported project and they needed to listen,” Kent says. “And they did.”

In summer 2010, the Port decided to conduct a study on the financial feasibility of berthing the battleship. There were a few wrinkles to iron out, but on November 18, 2010, the Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously voted to make room for the ship. The decision came in the nick of time, just days before the deadline for bids. Kent overnighted the Pacific Battleship Center’s application to the Navy. The only other bidder was Vallejo.

On September 6, 2011, the Iowa was officially awarded to L.A. by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. “Without the community support for this project, this ship would not be sitting here right now and that is the absolute truth,” Kent says.

Former San Pedro Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Camilla Townsend, who was first approached by Kent three years ago, agrees. “I think the community had a big voice on this one, which was nice. It’s a good feeling for the community to be heard,” she says. “The credit really goes to Robert Kent. He’s worked tirelessly for eight years to make this happen.”

The Iowa underwent refurbishments in Richmond, Calif., before being towed to L.A. in late May of this year, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on its 75th anniversary.

The USS Iowa (photo by John Mattera)

A Part of Pedro

USS Iowa fever swept San Pedro long before the ship’s arrival. A street party is set to take place on July 6 in downtown San Pedro to welcome the ship before its ribbon cutting the next day.

Business owners and community leaders have been important players in the push the bring the ship to the waterfront. “It’s a really big deal for us to have this ship, so we’re really excited both as business owners and as residents,” says Mona Sutton, owner the Omelette & Waffle Shop. “We finally have a good cornerstone attraction and a big piece of history.”

“I think our community is really happy and excited because it’s a good thing and we’ve been needing to see a positive thing happen in all of our revitalization,” says Townsend. “It’s going to be a beautiful sight here on the waterfront.”

The USS Iowa is now the premier surface warship museum on the west coast (the other two are aircraft carriers), making it a hot spot for veterans of not only battleships, but cruisers and destroyers.

Television production companies have already been calling asking when the ship will be available for filming. There is even a virtual reality experience in the works with a video game developer that will recreate some of the attacks the Iowa saw in WWII.

For many, the USS Iowa is more than a sorely needed tourist attraction, but a symbol of San Pedro’s own Naval history. “The Port of L.A. has a rich Navy history going back to the early part of the 20th century, where it used to house the city battle fleet,” says USS Los Angeles veteran Jim Whitt, who got to ride on the Iowa the day it settled at Berth 87. “There’s a very rich history, but all that has just about disappeared, so it’s nice to get some of that back.” Efforts to turn the USS Los Angeles into a museum ship never saw fruition and it was eventually scrapped. “This is kind of a second chance for us,” Whitt says.

Preventing the same fate for the USS Iowa, the world’s last remaining battleship, was a big part of Kent’s motivation.

“People ask me why I’ve been working 18 hour days, seven days a week pretty much for no pay for the last two years, living off my savings and putting in $250,000 of my own money for the project,” Kent says. “Well, I met a lot of crewmen along the way whose hopes were dashed so many times when each group that tried before failed. I was determined not to let the Pacific Battleship Center fail. I wanted these crewmen to finally get the satisfaction that their ship was going to be saved and be home again.” spt

For more info on the USS Iowa and to purchase tickets for tours, visit www.pacificbattleship.com.