Secret Dough Book Events at Lo Coco’s: May 5, 6, and 7

Suzanne Lo Coco makes linguini tutto mare at the family home in Sicily. Photo and book cover courtesy of Let it Rise Publishing


When I first dined at Lo Coco’s on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue in 1984, I was charmed by the two child waitresses who served up our pizza. (Oh… did  I say wine?…) One turned out later to be a snappy good writer, and gosh, how much else I didn’t know was going on there…

In fact, I might rightly say that anyone who has dined at the Lo Coco family restaurants and returned again and again for the good food and fun might recognize a bit of their own experience as Suzanne Lo Coco spills the beans on the family business in her raucous and highly entertaining new memoir, Secret Dough: Coming of Age in a Sicilian-American Restaurant Family, just published by Let it Rise Publishing. It’s a true, tell-all account by a sassy restaurant brat who grew up in her parents’ beloved Sicilian-American restaurants and went on to lead two of her own, one in Pasadena (now closed) and another, La Fornaretta in Newcastle (near Sacramento), which her sons continue to run.

Suzanne Lo Coco leads each chapter with pearls of wisdom from her charismatic Sicilian-immigrant father, Giovanni Maria Antonio Lo Coco, who founded his first restaurant in 1966 in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, where he had come upon arrival from Sicily, imagining he might get a taste of American cowboy life. The Bay Area turned out to be a better location to do business and raise a family, so Suzanne’s parents relocated and gradually conscripted the children into the fast and furious restaurant life. As a strong-willed immigrant, Giovanni did things his own way and spoke his unique patois, characteristics that Suzanne features throughout her memoir as she tells uproarious tales of daily exploits and breathtaking predicaments.

I especially enjoyed the many vignettes of late-20th-century Bay Area restaurant lore seen through the eyes of a girl who grew up in the middle of it. Suzanne’s chapter on Sicily engaged my travel bug, even if one would have to be in their 20s and possess a mega-sense of adventure to re-create that first non-parent-chaperoned tour undertaken with her best girlfriend. I’ll admit that it took some fortitude to be such a close witness to several romances (and a marriage) gone wrong, but the author’s humor and quirky insights carried this reader through even the squirmiest passages.

I’ll close this review with the full disclosure that I served as Suzanne Lo Coco’s Secret Dough editor, so this is a decidedly biased assessment. However, let me add that I had a big smile on my face through every one of the many days I spent in the editor’s seat, and as my services are now paid in full, I have no financial incentive for enticing would-be readers to purchase this book. At the very least, home cooks are sure to enjoy the seven (or arguably eight) family recipes that Suzanne Lo Coco chose to include in her enjoyable 236-page memoir.

—Cheryl Angelina Koehler, editor of Edible East Bay


Upcoming Book Events

Secret Dough: Coming of Age in a Sicilian-American Restaurant Family by Suzanne Lo Coco is available for purchase online at and at three upcoming book celebrations:

Sunday, May 5, 2024, 2pm at Lo Coco’s Restaurant,1400 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley

Monday May 6, 2024, 5:30pm at Lo Coco’s Restaurant, 4270 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland

Tuesday May 7, 2024, 5:30pm at La Fornaretta, 455 Main Street in Newcastle