High Profile: Jim Pardini

Fine Food, Family, Friends, Finesse....F(PH)enomenal Jim Pardini! CVLUX caught up with Jim Pardini to find out what’s cooking.

Jim Pardini was born to Albert and Mary Jane Pardini in Santa Cruz, California, where his Dad owned a restaurant. The Pardini family moved to Fresno in 1952, where Jim attended St. Therese grammar school and then went on to San Joaquin Memorial, where he graduated in 1964. He was voted “most talkative” by his fellow classmates, something that hasn’t changed all these years later.

Jim graduated with a BA degree from CSU Fresno. However, he had been mentored by his dad, Al, a great restauranteur, who owned and worked long hours with several restaurants in Fresno, so going into the restaurant business was a natural fit for Jim.

Growing up, Jim worked every job imaginable in his dad’s restaurants: washing dishes, prepping vegetables, bussing tables, taking orders from customers and any other restaurant task you can imagine. At the age of 18 he began to really learn the art of cooking and to tend bar, and in 1969, Al and Jim opened what would be Jim’s first restaurant on Clovis Avenue in Sunnyside. Young Jim became manager of the dinner house.

In 1971 they opened Pardini’s restaurant on Shaw and Van Ness, and then in 1981, Jim founded Pardini’s Catering Company, one of the largest and most established catering companies in the San Joaquin Valley. Today the Shaw Avenue site serves as his base where it houses the banquet facility for special events. It’s also home to the newest Pardini adventure by Jim’s two sons, Jeff and Jimmy Pardini, who have launched the successful Italian bistro, The Annex Kitchen. Jim is the exclusive caterer and concessionaire for the Convention Center, as well as Master Concessionaire for the Big Fresno Fair and Master Concessionaire for CSUF baseball, football and softball.

Jim’s company has become a fixture here in the Valley, and as such has been part of some of the most eventful things that have happened in our lives: weddings, graduations, anniversaries, birthday parties, funeral receptions, bar mitzvah celebrations and so much more. And not only that, he has been present at most of them as well.

I felt it best to contact a few people to describe this incredible individual so here are a few comments from people who really know him:

Carolyn Goss (Jim’s younger sister):

“Jim is a very competitive person. He wants the best for everyone. He was always busy growing up, horse riding, the swim team and basketball team. He still is extremely busy and active. My Dad taught him to ‘treat all your customers as if they were guests in your own home,’ and that is the philosophy that [Jim] follows. He is hands-on, working side-by-side with his staff at events, he has a heart of gold and he can never say no!”

Jim Ashjian of Ashjian Lighting:

“I have had the privilege of being friends of Jimmy for the past 50 years. I was best man at his wedding. He is not only kind and generous to his friends and families, but he cares for his Community as well. I often have joked that the only other person I know who fed more people at an event was Jesus Christ when he fed the multitudes on the mountain with loaves and fishes!”

Lou Amendola, President and CEO of Valley Wide Beverage:

“Jim has developed his Company to become the premier catering company in this Valley, where we are known for the best food raised in the world, and he has brought that wonderful food, value, and attention to detail to every event that is catered, to be not just an event, but eventful for his customer. He [has] the uncanny ability to cater an event for 30 people or 3,000 people, and maybe have two other events for 1,600 people the same day, and is very calm and never rattled ... Somehow [he] attends all of these events exhibiting his charm, wonderful wit and attention to each event as if it was the only thing he had on his calendar that day. This is truly why we are blessed to have such a special person attending to all of our needs in our community.”

Debbie Poochigian, Fresno County Supervisor:

“I have known Jimmy since 1980 and he has done every family wedding, many political fund raisers and BBQ’s for my husband, Chuck, for over 1600 people at Coombs Riverbend Ranch. I organized one of my first political events with Jimmy in 1990. He was always so kind and accommodating to me. His dinners are special ... and the meals well- prepared and delicious. I would go around checking on everyone over the years at my events, and all had a great time and I know they loved his food because the plates were ‘licked clean.’ Often times, I would find him back with his staff in the kitchen, cooking and making sure all was well with the dinner. His is a long- standing tradition with decades of excellence [and] attention to every detail. He makes every event special!”

DeWayne Zinkin, of Zinkin Enterprises:

“Jim is the 21st Century Henry Ford of the food and catering industry. I knew Jimmy when we were kids. Our fathers were good friends and Jim worked at the family restaurant, Pardini’s, the most popular place in town. He’s the only person I know that can put together a first class six course meal with appetizers, with 24 hour notice, and then honor a subsequent request with a smile; all the while he has scheduled parties of three or four thousand guests. He is one of the most humble, kind and generous people I know.”

Jim credits his father for helping to develop an incredible work ethic and his well- known generosity to the community. He has been involved in organizations too numerous to list, but include being a board member for St. Agnes Foundation, president of California Restaurant Association, and involvement in the Boys & Girls Club and the United Cerebral Palsy Association.

On a more personal note, I went to school with Jimmy and was three years behind him through both grammar and high school. I had the privilege of working with him when I was in Administration and in charge of major events for St. Agnes Medical Center.

One event stays planted firmly in my mind, however. I gave a birthday party for my dad on March 3, 1992, for about 50 people and had Jimmy do the catering; it was a great party. On March 11, eight days later, my dad died suddenly. My entire family was both shocked and stunned as he was only 72.

One of the first calls I made was to Jimmy and I told him what had happened and that my Mom was going to be deluged with family coming home over for the next few days. I asked him to bring over dinner for 50, starting that very evening, followed by four more days of breakfast, lunch and dinner, followed by a reception for 400 people at my Mom’s house. I will never forget how calm Jimmy was as he told me not to worry because his part was covered.

“You just take care of your family and your Mom, and let me handle the rest. Call me if you need anything, and I will see you later this afternoon.” That is the Jimmy Pardini I know!

Jim is married to his wife Marie, and is father to four children, Cindi Pardini, Kristi Pardini-Bush, Jimmy Pardini and Jeff Pardini. He is grandfather to Luca Bush, Avila Bush, Preston Pardini, Brooklyn Pardini and one more on the way, coming sometime in October.

Features Editor Ann T. Sullivan Whitehurst
Photography Don Dizon