Reader Primetime tells me that one of the oldest restaurants in Santa Barbara, Arnoldi’s Café, which was founded by Giuseppe and Ilda Arnold in 1937, at 421 East Cota Street, has closed after the death of co-owner David Peri. The closure might be temporary.

In 1940, Giuseppe (Joe) quarried local stone and built the present restaurant at 600 Olive Street. Since then, Arnoldi’s, with the bocce ball courts in the garden, has been entertaining Santa Barbarans and visitors from all over the world.

Arnoldi’s has hosted orchestras and dancers since the 1940’s. The mural depicts Logo di Como. Bucky, the Tule Elk, overlooking the bar joined Arnoldi’s following Joe’s 1958 hunting trip to Colorado. The owners of Arnoldi’s Café, Jim and Dede Nonn, Dave and Kitty Peri, and Carol Smagala, were able to preserve the valued traditions of Arnoldi’s Café for decades.

Here is a message to you from the beloved eatery:

It is with great sadness that we announce the temporary closure of Arnoldi’s Cafe as we have known it the last 22 years. The current business owners will be stepping away from the business and have so much gratitude for being a part of the historical and legendary institution that has brought so many people memories since the 1940s.

Being a part of the history and the tradition of the cafe including countless plates of pasta coming out of the kitchen, the chatter of teams on the bocce court, and  special moments – rehearsal dinners,  graduations, weddings,  birthdays or just a Friday night dinner – has meant so much to us. We want to thank our incredible staff,  our valued customers and the community of Santa Barbara. We are confident the tradition will continue forward but for the time being while we transition to new beginnings, the cafe will be closed.

Photo by The Restaurant Guy

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  1. Gary Simpson says:

    You will be missed!
    Arnoldi’s was a big part of my family’s life. My Mom back in the late 40s and early 50s would drive us each evening to pick up my Dad at Santa Barbara Mill and Lumber and we’d head off to an early dinner most of the time to Arnoldi’s. I grew up having Shirley Temples at the bar with the rest of businessmen having their cocktails. Joe and Hilda were special people, always warm and full of fun stories

  2. JILL says:

    Hello John I am very saddened to hear about Dave’s passing he will be missed.
    Did you know that Arnoldi’s was purchased from the Arnoldi’s by Helen & Jim Romp in 1968? They owned and operated it solely for 30 years until 1998 when their health declined and they sold it to their Bartender Jim and his wife, ironically also named Helen (who waited tables there). The long stretch of time the Romps ran Arnoldi’s seems to be missing from the Aronoldi’s chronicles. Helen Romp was actually my grandmother Jerry Shalhoob’s mother. Anyway a bit of history, as us locals are very proud of, perhaps you John remember going there growing up here in SB?
    I wish Arnold’s all the best it was much apart of my youth and perhaps my grandmothers long tenor as owner of Arnold’s inspired me to turn into a full service Restaurant.
    Always enjoy your post! JILL

    • Jeanette Arnoldi says:

      Jill your grandparents became business owners middle or end of June 1969 not 1968.

    • Monica says:

      That is pretty cool! Those were probably the years when our family most frequented Arnoldi’s and anything Shalhoob’s (especially the jerky), has been a family favorite forever!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Gerie says:

    Is the Restaurant for Sale??

    • Jeanette Arnoldi says:

      I’m the landlord of Arnoldi’s Cafe (granddaughter of Ilda and Joe Arnoldi who started in 1940 retired middle or end of June 1969. NO Arnoldi’s Cafe is NOT for sale.

  4. Bill says:

    Sounds like it will continue on with a much needed refresh. I look forward to the next generation of Arnoldis.

  5. Jeanette Arnoldi says:


    During the “Temporary Closure ” of Arnoldi’s Cafe, I Jeanette Arnoldi property owner/landlord and family have expressed our condolences to the family of David Peri. 

    Arnoldi’s Cafe is NOT FOR SALE.  

    When Arnoldi’s Cafe doors open again under new business management it will begin a new chapter of a Santa Barbara Historical Landmark.

  6. Sean Michael Murphy says:

    So many great memories as a kid having dinner with my family at Arnoldi’s. My prayers go out to the Peri family.

  7. Lo FiGirl says:

    NOOOOOOO! This is Santa Barbara. REAL Santa Barbara! We have already lost SO much!

  8. Julia says:

    My recently deceased husband and I had our first date at Arnoldi’s in the middle booth 63 years ago. We took our 3 children to Arnoldi’s countless times over the years. The closing is particularly poignant for me. It feels like I am losing my history, bit by bit. I do have a treasured print in my house of Arnoldi’s by Tony Askew, well-known local artist, which reminds me every day of the role it played in our lives. It will never be anything but Arnoldi’s to me.

  9. VIRGINIE says:

    HOW SAD!. I had the best time there for over 30 years. Although the food was not always great, the atmosphere was, and the Bacci ball court and the sweet summer evenings were fantastic!

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