Old black and white family photos line the walls in the back room of Pietro’s Trattoria. Annette Murdaca calls this room the family room. Murdaca, who owns Pietro’s along with her husband, Jim, describes herself as the historian. She feels it’s important to pass down traditions to keep the community spirit alive.
“My job as a historian is to remind the younger generation where they came from. You can’t take anything for granted,” she said.
Born and raised in Lodi, Murdaca also makes it her mission to promote and improve the town she has loved. Over the years, she has not only played a vital role in the restaurant but has also served on various community organizations to achieve her goal of helping those in need.
“It’s rewarding to have the opportunity to help people and make a difference and to be a bright light where there is darkness,” she said.
After graduating from Lodi High School in 1969, Murdaca attended Chico State and then worked in San Francisco as a legal secretary. Ten years later, Murdaca came back to Lodi to work alongside her brother as second generation owners of California Waste Recovery Systems. Shortly after the two sold the business in 1997, she began working with Jim in the restaurant. She has enjoyed watching her husband and son work together as well as developing community relationships.
“Talking to all the customers allows me to keep in touch with the community. It’s all about connections and relationships,” she said.
Murdaca has also maintained that connection through her service in nonprofit organizations. Some of them include the Omega Nu and Soroptimists. She also served as chair of the pastoral council at St. Anne’s and has been a board member at Lodi Memorial Hospital, where she was a part of the committee who formed the hospital partnership with Adventist Health. Recently, she has taken on the role as historian because she feels it’s important to remind the community about those instrumental in the hospital’s origins.
“They were regular people such as bankers, restaurant people and garbage people. We don’t want to forget them,” she said.
When Murdaca began volunteering at the Lodi Salvation Army in the mid-1990s, she discovered there was no place for women and children to go for help. She helped to create a task force who researched ideas and after a donation from Farmers and Merchants Bank, a house on Washington Street was purchased in 1998 and Lodi House was born.
“I had a heart for women. I was a single mom for a while and I knew how hard it could be. I couldn’t imagine doing it myself,” she said.
That was the easy part. Funding it to keep it open everyday has been more of a challenge, Murdaca said. In 2006, she organized Festa della Donna, an annual luncheon to help raise funds for Lodi House. The event featured decorated tables to be auctioned off. In the first year, 22 tables helped to raise $40,000. At the end of it’s 10-year run in 2016, the number of tables doubled and proceeds nearly quadrupled. Over the duration of the event, $1 million was raised, Murdaca said.
Nancy Wallior, who has known Murdaca since the two were age 6, worked with her during the event. Murdaca’s greatest quality is her generosity, she said.
“I’m in awe of all she’s done. She reaches out to people easily without hesitating. If she sees a need, she fills it. She’s extremely kind and very welcoming,” Wallior said.
After spending time in prayer and taking her granddaughter to school, Murdaca begins her day sorting through paperwork.
She divides it into separate piles; one for the restaurant, a second for Lodi House and the last for the Salvation Army. She then checks in with Jim at the restaurant, where she helps with the wine list and menus. At dinnertime, she chats with customers.
“It’s never a dull day. That’s the best thing about being in business. It’s always different every day,” she said.
In the future, she’s hoping to spend more time with her grandchildren and do some traveling with her husband. Currently, she and Jim are in the process of re-opening Woodbridge Inn. The two purchased the restaurant and are experimenting with menu items that will feature steak with an Italian flair.
She hopes the town she loves will always have that small town feel and to maintain its traditions, though she knows it will take some work, she said.
“As the old school of Lodi, we have the responsibility to make people understand where they came from,” she said. “The younger generation doesn’t know unless we teach them. You want to keep that community spirit alive and maintain tradition.”