When I was growing up in the rural North Carolina foothills of Wilkes County, I didn’t see anything strange about a visit to Sunny Italy Restaurant, but if you were not from “round here,” chances are that you may have found the experience unique.
For 42 years, the Roselli family owned and operated this amazing dimly lit Italian restaurant that was housed in a converted chicken house on a gravel road off NC 268 East in North Wilkesboro. Known for their sweet sauces, homemade pastas and pizzas, and their delicious homemade desserts, lovingly baked by Mama Daisy Roselli until the restaurant closed in 2009 when Daisy was 100 years old, no place had more character or better food.
However, the absolute best feature at Sunny Italy wasn’t the incredible pasta or pizza or even the rustic edifice but the amazing salad dressing. Sunny Italy salad dressing has a flavor both sweet and tangy. It is unlike any dressing I had ever tasted. All I know is that as far back as I can remember, I loved this dressing – and so did everyone else. Granny Daisy’s original Sunny Italy salad is made with chopped iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and celery and always served with Captain’s Wafers.
So, when I discovered that Sunny Italy had closed, I was sad. I remember enjoying both hearty family meals as well as gathering with friends at tables illuminated only by candlelight and the glow of the wood fire in the corner. Juice glasses of water clinked while we laughed, talked, and patiently waited for our salads to arrive. I wish I could return just one more time to taste that wonderfully sweet Italian sauce on perfectly cooked pasta and pizza. The memories make me smile…
In my quest to find some good photos of the restaurant (which I never did), I discovered that Papa John and Daisy Roselli’s grandson David has opened Kitchen Roselli in East Bend. From the looks of the Carolina Sampler website, they offer Italian fare using Granny Daisy’s recipes. The site even boasts, “featuring Granny’s Sunny Italy salad.” I think a trip to East Bend may be in my near future!
Check out their official website here: Kitchen Roselli’s Official Website.
Check out their menu.
In their September 16, 2009 edition, The Record of Wilkes ran a wonderful article on the Roselli’s, their relationship, and their business.
From start to finish, this recipe will take approximately 10 minutes.
1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup hot water
2 shakes garlic salt
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons Salad Supreme
8 oz. Creamy Italian Dressing
Bring 1 cup hot water to a boil.
Dissolve sugar in hot water.
Combine all ingredients mixing thoroughly with a wire whisk.