425 Durbin Pavilion Dr, Saint Johns, FL 32259

 (904) 547-2888

Mario & Laura's Story


When Laura and Mario got married in 1995, within three or four years they had a 5 acre self sufficient farm in Grass Valley CA where there were wooded areas with desnse oaks and pines and meadows for animals to graze, a stream that fed a pond with seven species of fish plus bullfrogs, a 75'x75' garden, a half-acre orchard, animal pens for goats, chickens, rabbits, and a 300 vine vineyard with muscatello, zinfandel (primativo), sangiovese, and barbera grapes!  Mario bought a tractor and got to work on the land with his free time away from 40 hour work as a bridge engineer and we planted the fruits, trees, vegetables, and nuts, provided irrigation, put up fencing and built pens,  picked and canned the fruit and vegetables, milked the goats and made cheese, harvested eggs from the chickens, butchered the rabbits and chickens, made prosciutto from local pigs, and harvested the grapes and made our own vino!  It was a labor of love more than it was out of need and a way of life to remain simple, to appreciate the gifts from the earth, and to carry on and restore the past that Mario had witnessed first hand in his upbringing, most especially by his Nonno and Nonna!

Bernardone Backstory

Mario grew up on the East Coast in a neighborhood where his Nonno (Giovanni Bernardone), and Nonna (Maria nee Chiacchia) lived.  My grandparents were very simple but ingenious immigrants from Italy and had unbelievable work ethics.  As his six children got older, my grandfather bought three lots of land across the street from his home for his three sons and also provided homes for two of his daughters and families living in his own two-story house. This way, his famiglia would live and work together. 


Nonno was a mason for money and after tending the garden in the morning he would load up his tools in a wheelbarrow and walk a few miles to the different jobs then return home with his wheelbarrow and tools after a full day's work to check on the animals and the garden before going in the house for dinner.  His small farm which he fed his family from with fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats was very important, and was not a hobby for him, but a way of life.  He shaped his property growing grapes and fruit trees so he didn't miss the Abruzzo hills in Italy so much and stayed grounded with the "simple" life. 


Nonna was normally in the kitchen preparing the day's foods and also going for eggs and flour daily while tending to the six children and chickens, goats, pigs, and garden.  There was always something tasty in Nonna's kitchen (bread, cheese, soups, sauces, pasta, dessert treats) and if I told her I wasn't hungry she'd pinch my cheeks and tell me I was getting too skinny - imagine that! 


Together, Nonno and Nonna, managed by working without delay and by not wasting whatever they were given to always have enough for anyone who visited.  When Mario's Dad (also Mario) and Godfather (Uncle Donato) started an Italian Ristorante years later,  my whole family  (aunts and uncles and cousins ) all worked together making fresh  made pasta, grinding meats, making meatballs and sausage, crafting fine desserts, the only way they knew how.  In a way, their laborious restaurant work efforts perfectly mirrored the previous efforts of Nonno and Nonna!