Pocket Life

By Corky Mau
June 2023

Stumped by what to cook for dinner? Open a cookbook or view YouTube. Better yet, check out Rick Ameil’s Facebook page (Pocket-Greenhaven, Sacramento group). His posts include meal photos along and recipes.

A former nonprofit executive, preservation activist and bon vivant, Ameil has a big appetite for life and a passion for cooking. The eighth-generation Californian was raised in Santa Cruz. His love of giraffes and concern for their declining population prompted him to start the World Giraffe Foundation.

Ameil has been around. He entered the restaurant business at age 13, working in a barbecue joint on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Since then, he’s owned restaurants in San Francisco, Honolulu, Palm Springs and Palm Desert. Remember Giant Orange burgers on Howe Avenue? In 2013, Ameil was co-owner.

“Mom taught all of her children to cook,” he says. “She was a wonderful cook. You could taste the love in her food. I still feel my mother’s presence when I’m cooking. She taught us that food is more than eating. It’s for remembering who you are and where you came from. Handing down family recipes through generations is an act of love.”

Now retired and living in Pocket, Ameil carries on his mother’s practice. He’s especially fond of Indian, Chinese and Mexican foods.

His curiosity about what people eat led him to publish a cookbook in 1999, “Cooking with the Stars.” It’s a collection of his favorite celebrity recipes. On page 95, there’s tamale pie from local swimming legend Debbie Meyer. Donald Trump’s lemon chicken is on page 122.

Ameil has shared recipes on television. When he operated Grill-A-Burger in Palm Springs, he hosted a cooking show called “I Love Cooking.” He says, “I submitted audition tapes to the Food Network and Top Chef. I didn’t get selected, but I got my own cooking show!”

Here’s a recipe from Ameil’s great-grandmother Eugenia Morelli:

Italian Meat Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 pound Italian sausage (casings removed)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
16-ounce can tomato puree
1 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, sauté for about 10 minutes. Add sausage and garlic, sauté until meat is thoroughly cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Puree the canned plum tomatoes in a food processor. Add to saucepan and stir, then add canned tomato puree and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over pasta (like spaghetti, bucatini, ravioli). Top with lots of Parmesan cheese.


Wine aficionados can taste local wines at the Elks Lodge on Friday, June 9, from 6–9 p.m. Wineries will include Todd Taylor, Wente and Miner’s Leap. There also will be entertainment and appetizers.

Tickets are $45 per person or $80 for two. Proceeds will benefit Family Promise of Sacramento, an organization supporting unhoused families. Tickets are available at the door or Elks Lodge office. Contact Jan Wilson at (916) 716-9593 or Sue Hill at (215) 327-7712.


Join ACC instructor Julie Honda for a fun, dance-inspired fitness class. Attend in person or online with dance moves even performed while sitting. Classes are every Thursday, June 1–29, from 10–10:45 a.m. Visit accsv.org or call (916) 503-5807 to register.


A family-friendly vintage car show takes place Thursdays, June 1 and 15, from 4–8 p.m., at Device Brewing Company in the Promenade Center. The show continues monthly through summer on first and third Thursdays.


Dine al fresco at Garcia Bend Park on Friday, June 16, from 5–9 p.m. SactoMoFo food trucks will offer a variety of selections.

Corky Mau can be reached at corky.sue50@gmail.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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