Rest in peace to Italian-American Napa Valley resident Vincent DeDomenico, who was the inventor of the "San Francisco treat," RIce-A-Roni, and who died in his sleep last Thursday at age 92. DeDomenico's legacy will live on forever and Rice-A-Roni is something that will always be synonymous with cable cars and San Francisco, California. Vincent was born in San Francisco in 1915 to Sicilian immigrants who had moved to California and set up the family business in San Francisco's Mission District -- the very successful Gragnano Products, Inc, which supplied pasta to Italian stores and restaurants all around San Francisco and which by the mid 1930's had changed its name to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. A couple of decades later the invention of Rice-A-Roni would come about when in 1958, apparently inspired by the pilaf recipe of mixing rice and macaroni with some chicken broth, Vincent mixed all the ingrediants together dry: rice and macaroni plus a dry chicken soup mix and voila, "The San Francisco Treat" (its registered trademark) was born. Within four years Rice-A-Roni went national and just took off from there. By the 1960's it had become a cooking staple of US households and is still extremely popular to this day. In 1986 the Quaker Oats Company purchased the family business from the Golden Grain Company and has continued to expand its product line.
The catchy Rice-A-Roni advertising jingle is one that everyone seems to know and has become synonymous with the City by the Bay -- especially to outsiders/tourists -- because it repeatedly identifies with San Francisco imagery (including the sound of cable car bells). Additionally, the jingle has been sampled in many hip-hop releases and also the words "Rice-A-Roni" have been included in rap lyrics by both Bay Area and non Bay rap artists. Some rap songs over the years that have included the words "rice-a-roni" in their lyrics include Timbaland And Magoo's "Up Jumps Da Boogie" from Welcome To Our World featuring Missy when Magoo raps, "Eating Rice-A-Roni with Toni Toni Tone/Keep Cindy Crawford, to me she's to boney" and by the 2Live Crew in their take on Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" (the one that got Luther Campbell in a high profile lawsuit) with the lyrics, "Ya know what I'm saying you look better than rice a roni."
But perhaps the most memorable use of the term "Rice-A-Roni" in a rap song is in the Beastie Boys' 1986 classic "Hold it Now, Hit It," with the lyrics, "I'm down with Mike D. And it ain't no baloney For real, not phony. O.E. and Rice-A-Roni" See the video for this song by clicking here And below in the COMMENTS box I invite you to post your favorite RIce-A-Roni recipe. Thanks!