Between Yanni's Sausage Grill (10007 Main St., Penngrove, 707-795-7088) and Full Circle Baking Company (10151 Main St., Suite 120, Penngrove, 707-794-9445), it can sometimes be hard to find parking along the two-lane main road. And when you do, you could walk down the sidewalk only to bump into the likes of Jim Belushi, or Nick Peyton, co-owner of the now-closed Michelin two-star Cyrus in Healdsburg.
Literally. "Downtown" Penngrove is a few blocks long, and it’s home to about 800 residents.
They’re there for the stellar Yanni sausages, and for the artisan Full Circle rolls that those sausages come tucked into.
When John Vrattos opened his grill in 2010, he never dreamed that one day, Belushi would walk in. Vrattos had just been downsized from a 30-year career in bakery sales, and hoped his new idea to sell the sausages he’d always made for his family would be a success.
Wanting to keep rent to a minimum, he chose a 270-square-foot space on the quiet street, barely big enough to contain Vrattos, his wife Francesca, the deli case and a stand-up counter for two.
Soon after, though, Peyton visited, tasted the sausages, and began telling everyone he knew about the handmade sausages that range from garlic-mint, to sweet and hot Italian, to a Greek style stuffed with kalamata olives and feta. His word caught the attention of local media, who came, tasted, and proclaimed the links highly laudable.
Fast forward to June 2012. Jim Belushi was in town in advance of his headliner performance at the Sonoma County Fair, along with the Sacred Hearts Band, with whom he has played for 15 years. The Chicago-born actor/musician did some searching in the press for an excellent sausage, and discovered Yanni’s. After dining, he gave Vrattos a standing ovation.
Back in 2004, meanwhile, Kathy and Keith Giusto formed Full Circle Baking Company. Keith comes from a family that practiced the art of milling flour and baking over three generations, and he was born with the passion.
The little bakery at the entry to downtown quickly gained renown for its dedication to organic farmers, and its remarkable crusty wonders, ranging from baguette, ciabatta, focaccia, and flavored specialties such as cranberry semolina, country walnut, kalamata olive.
The breads are featured at top restaurants around the Bay Area and, at Yanni’s, Vrattos splits and grills the sausages to order, nestles them in a Full Circle Baking Co. roll, then tops them a choice of sweet peppers, pepperocinis, grilled onions or chili.
Suddenly, tiny Penngrove is big business.