Food & Drink

Foodies, film lovers can feast on ‘Trattoria’ fundraiser at State Theatre

The film “Trattoria” will be screened at the State Theatre at a July 18 fundraiser.
The film “Trattoria” will be screened at the State Theatre at a July 18 fundraiser. Courtesy of Jason Wolos

Food and a film make a classic night-out combination.

The State Theatre is taking it one better for its upcoming fundraiser, hosting an event with food and pairing it alongside a film about food.

The event, Trattoria: A Fete for Foodies & Film Lovers, will be held Friday at the historic downtown Modesto venue. It was made possible thanks to State board member John Surla’s connections with the director of the 2012 film “Trattoria.”

Surla, owner and chef at the upscale downtown eatery Surla’s, knows “Trattoria” director Jason Wolos through a mutual friend – Modestan Myles Kuikahi. Wolos, who shot the movie in San Francisco, will be on hand at the event for a Q&A with the Modesto audience following the screening.

“This was simply an opportunity that presented itself ... since John (Surla) is all about food, and our patrons love good food,” State Theatre Executive Director Sue Richardson said in an email. “Plus, John knows Jason, and the film was shot in San Francisco, so the cityscapes are familiar, which always makes a film more fun.”

As it turns out, Surla isn’t just about food – he’s also about music. So in addition to hooking up the State with the film and the food being served, the chef will perform during the fundraiser with his band, The Jam Session, a Hawaiian reggae group in which he plays bass guitar.

The Jam Session’s lead singer is Kuikahi, who also works as an actor and plays Chef John in the film. He connected Surla to Wolos and the movie. Surla, who joined the State Theatre board just last year, saw a unique opportunity to raise money for the venue.

“I wanted to find a way to help the community,” he said of joining the theater’s board. “Usually, nonprofits ask me to help, but I wanted to do more than donate food and services.” And having an event for the theater at the theater itself seemed like a perfect fit.

“(I thought) let’s do it at the State so people can appreciate the State Theatre. It’s only $25, so people can truly enjoy it,” he said.

“(The movie) received high marks, and it’s about Italian food ... I just wanted to tie some of the Italian flavors of Modesto into that event,” said Surla, who was chef for eight years at downtown Modesto Italian restaurant Galletto Ristorante before opening his own eatery.

This will be the first event Surla has spearheaded, and he said his culinary connections within the community stepped up to help, as well. Food and beverages will be offered by several local purveyors, including Verona’s Restaurant, Fiscalini Cheese, Yosemite Meat Company, Cold House Vodka and Dan Costa’s Cooking Made Easy.

The film is an independent comedy about the love of food and family and a workaholic chef’s struggle to make a success of his San Francisco restaurant. It stars Tony Denison as Chef Sal Sartini. Denison is known for his work on high-profile television shows, including a role as Lt. Andy Flynn on both “The Closer” and “Major Crimes.”

“Trattoria” also features some celebrity chefs in its cast, including Traci Des Jardins and Elizabeth Falkner, who play themselves.

Following the State event, there will be a party at Surla’s, 431 12th St., Modesto, with Wolos attending, Surla said.

All proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the nonprofit State Theatre. Richardson said the theater is “always in fundraising mode” and has several projects on the books.

“We’re still paying for the $60,000 marquee that followed on the heels of the digital projection system and the cinema sound system,” she said. “Next, we’re replacing the theatrical lights with digitally driven lighting that will be much better, and far more energy-efficient. Just another $75,000.

“This little place is insatiable. The old building and aging systems within it make it a constant in terms of fundraising.”