Elaine M. Teixeira recently spoke with Frank Nerli, who resides in Redwood City with his wife, Millie, a native of Massachusetts. Frank is the last surviving immediate member of his family.
The History of the Nerli Family
by Elaine M. Teixeira
Paolo (Paul) Nerli arrived on the coastside in 1889 and joined his brother, Guiglielmo (William) who was farming the “Martini Ranch”, in Montara. He later sent for his bride, Isola Piegaia, He then began farming in Lobitos and the couple resided on the property.
In 1925, they relocated to a farm across from the present airport property, near the northern entrance to Princeton; the house no longer is standing and the land is now farmed by David Lea. Their family consisted of four sons and two daughters: Ida, her first marriage was to a member of the Romani family, Gino, who married Norma Rossi, from Moss Beach, Pia, who married Roy Torre of Moss Beach, Frank , his first wife was Lena Gianelli, of Half Moon Bay, George and Edward, who married Barbara Valladao. In the 1930’s the Nerli son. George, who was operating a fishing boat out of Monterey, was lost at sea; no evidence of what occurred to him or the boat was ever found. His name is listed on a plaque in Princeton, which honors those lost at sea, from the local fishing industry.
In 1928, the family moved to Moss Beach, where Paolo bought property on Vermont Ave., near the current location of Hwy One, across from the Moss Beach Club. On part of the property stood a barn which had been used by the Ocean Shore Railroad. When the railroad was in operation, there was a side track that came to the barn from the nearby main track. The train would pick up produce brought to the barn by local farmers for shipment to San Francisco. Paolo tore down the barn, except for one wall, which was left standing to assist in the building of a blacksmith shop. The remaining lumber he used to build a home on the property. His daughter, Pia, and her husband, Roy Torre, later built a home on Vermont, adjacent to the Nerli property. Later, Isola’s brother, Guiglielmo and Ida Piegaia resided in the home and, after, Albert and Pat Bertolucci.
In 1938, the Nerli’s decided to operate a business in Princeton in a small structure on Petroni property, across the road from a seafood stand which was operated in the 1930’s by the Bettencourt family and later became Hazel’s Sea Food; today, it is the location of Barbara’s Fish Trap. The building had a bar and Paolo added to the structure, a kitchen and dining room. Paolo, his wife and two younger sons lived upstairs. They hired a cook and started up their business operation, serving Italian dinners. Eventually, their daughter, Pia, worked as a waitress in the business, along with several other coastside women, and their son, Frank, was the bartender. The oldest son, Gino, served as a replacement bartender on weekends. They operated the business until 1958. Paolo and his wife sold the business, trading it for a home across the bay, where they resided for a year or two.
They later returned to the coastside to live out their remaining years; both died during the 1960’s. Later the restaurant site remained closed for several years and was finally torn down and the area served as a parking area. Today, it is the site of the Pillar Point Inn.