Journal of Business: Commellini Estate aims to enhance al fresco experiences

By Virginia Thomas
Read Full Article on the Journal of Business Website

“Commellini Estate Venue & Event Restaurant has a historical past that its owners, relatives of the original founders, say they hope to build on as they plan to increase public events at the wedding and event venue.

Desiree Seghetti-Sulpizio, operations manager at Commellini Estate, says she plans to host outdoor events this summer that she’s tentatively calling Scampagnata by the Pond. Scampagnata means country excursion or picnic in Italian. Seghetti-Sulpizio envisions family-friendly movie nights al fresco.

“It’s wonderful being part of the big events, but being part of everyday life is something we value as well,” she says.

Commellini Estate is the setting for many events—117 in 2022, including weddings, corporate events, and birthdays.

Like other event venues, Commellini Estate has seen an influx of events after gathering restrictions imposed by the state related to COVID-19 were lifted, Seghetti-Sulpizio says. She expects 2023 revenue to increase by 10% of the record high revenue level Commellini Estate set last year.

Located at 14715 N. Dartford Drive, in the Wandermere area of North Spokane, with U.S. 395 to the east and the Little Spokane River to the south, Commellini Estate has six locations within the venue for clients to use, including the 3,000-square-foot main building, a patio along Dartford Creek, and a covered portico.

Depending on the season, Commellini Estate employs between 14 and 24 people.

Speakeasy Supper Club has become a popular feature of Commellini Estate offerings, Seghetti-Sulpizio says. Fewer than 22 people dine at a large communal table for each reservation time. The menu changes monthly, and typically includes five or six courses.

“We’re trying to honor what Leda intended,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says. “Her menu was a limited menu, back in the day. We brought back the generational recipes.”

Leda Commellini was the force behind the original Commellini’s restaurant.

In 2014, Commellini Estate started offering frozen prepared meals. People can call or order online to reserve meals such as chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, and lasagna, which they then either pick up at Commellini Estate or, in the summer, at a local farmer’s market. Prices for frozen meals range from $14 to $22, according to Commellini Estate’s website. Wine, tiramisu, and focaccia bread also are available.

Seghetti-Sulpizio says Commellini Estate has been working to grow its offsite catering business, as well.

For those who desire a hands-on experience, Commellini Estate offers both public and private cooking classes in which guests learn to create handmade pasta, ravioli, and gnocchi.

Seghetti-Sulpizio says she dreams of expanding the event complex.

“We have grand ambitions,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says. “I think the old shop would be a wonderful event space. There’s an old foundation of the building that would be fun to have dinner parties. I’d love to have the old slaughterhouse … become a shop where different artisans could have something on display.”

Seghetti-Sulpizio is the great-grandniece of Commellini Estate founders Albert Commellini and his half-sister, Leda Commellini. The family originally hails from a small town in the Tuscany region of Italy. Albert Commellini immigrated to Chicago around 1904 as an adolescent, and soon became a water boy tending to railroad workers. He followed the railroad west to Spokane, where he settled and started several businesses, including a lithography company, a lunch counter, and an importing company that served as a front for a bootleg moonshine ingredient business.

“Albert was a very colorful person,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says. “They never were able to pin anything on him, but he very much was involved.”

Transporting moonshine from Canada often brought Albert Commellini to the future site of Commellini Estate. He’d use it as a stopping point in his drive, and to hide moonshine in tunnels that still exist. Seghetti-Sulpizio says Albert Commellini decided to purchase the property in 1939 for a long-term residence, but never ended up living there.

He sponsored the Leda Commellini’s immigration, and she worked at a lunch counter downtown. After she retired, she moved to the 300-acre former chicken ranch north of Spokane.

“But people still kept asking for her to cook,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says.

Leda Commellini moved her bedroom and living room into part of the building, and used the rest for a restaurant, called Commellini’s. A former barn was converted to a dancehall with terrazzo tile floors and imported Italian chandeliers. The place became known as Commellini’s Junction. It once boasted the Guinness World Record for smallest town on one light meter.

In the 1950s, Albert Commellini invited anyone from the family who wanted to work at the restaurant to immigrate from Italy. Seghetti-Sulpizio’s grandmother, Gina Seghetti, took him up on the offer.

“It was meant to be a six-month stay,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says. “He kept convincing her to stay longer. She ended up going to school and getting fully educated in English.”

She had two children, Linda and Robert Seghetti, who is Desiree Seghetti-Sulpizio’s father.

Gina Seghetti and Leda Commellini worked the restaurant until Leda suffered a stroke in 1977. The family kept the property but leased the restaurant operation. In May 2009, the restaurant tenants closed Commellini’s.

“The last …. couple of years, it was not a great situation, but it was still run under the Commellini name,” Seghetti-Sulpizio says. “It was hard to watch. It that had been such a legacy.”

By then, the property had been passed down to Robert Seghetti and his wife Lauri, and Desiree Seghetti-Sulpizio was finishing a business degree at University of Washington. The three decided to do some renovations and turn the compound into an events space.”

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