The History of the Nerli Family by Elaine M. Teixeira

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.


Corrections from Lorraine Piegai

Corrections; I will have to find records of proof; but, I believe my in-law-parents, Guglielemo and Ida Marie ( Romani ) Piegaia were living in the house, on the Paolo Nerli property you mentioned at the north end of El Granada, across Hiway I, east of the airport from about 1923 – 1942-3. My husbands’ father first came to the Coastside from Italy in 1904; and worked as a farm laborer, with/for his sister, Isola ( Piegaia ‘s ) husband, Paolo Nerli for many years until he retired and the family moved to Moss Beach. Like many others’ he had returned to Italy to marry Ida ( pronounced Eda ) Marie Romani in Jan 1921; and, they came back to the Coastside to set up household, work the artichoke and brussel sprout ranch; and, raised a family of three children, Irene ( who also worked in the Patroni House ); Reno and George.

Also, after the Nerli family sold their restaurant/bar business named, The Patroni ( not P E troni ) House it was operated for a few years as the Harbor House, with lively Saturday night dances many local residents attended and enjoyed, before it was finally torn down.

I agree Frank Nerli the oldest son had served there as a bartender for his father; but, the other bartender mentioned was not an older Nerli son; he was a son-in-law, if it was Gino.

Thanks for making corrections, Lorraine

Good Rumor: Who were the beautiful people at the Oceano Hotel?

Friends have told me that they spotted some very rich, beautiful looking “hippies” staying at the Oceano Hotel in Princeton-by-the-Sea.

I got excited and asked: What does a rich hippie look like? What were they wearing? What did their hair look like? How many of them were there? What are they doing in Princeton? Making a movie?

The friends smiled broadly as I bombarded them with questions, ending with a harsh reprimand: “Didn’t you talk to them? I would have been ‘right there,'” meaning, I couldn’t pass them by without getting the answer to the most important question: “WHO ARE YOU?”

But my friends are not in the business of asking rich hippies who they are, and what they might be doing in Princeton; instead my friends just looked and admired and loved looking and admiring these seemingly out-of-place people wearing perfectly made counter-culture clothes and beads from the 1960s.

Now I hear that they were from a production company, involved with making a tv commercial for the “Hummer.” Hummers in Princeton?


One morning an incredibly nice Carole Allen of New Jersey googled “Let Women Alone,” because a friend of her mother’s, an antiques dealer, had the poster in her garage–and she came upon my blog talking about this “lost” 1920s film, part of which was shot at Princeton-by-the-Sea–an email to me, a friendly back-and-forth exchange, AND two days later, here’s the marvelous poster.

I do admit, however, that I didn’t anticipate a poster promoting “Let Women Alone” photographed on what was a very rural Coastside, to have such a sophisticated flavor. There’s no fishing boats, farmers, or artichoke fields depicted.

Here’s how it all began:

Carole Allen: I was doing a quick search for any info about this movie and was surprised to see that you had been attempting to hunt it down. While I’ve never seen it and don’t know anything about it, a friend of my mother has an original movie poster for this film in her garage (at least she did last year). If you’d like a picture of it for your archives, next time I’m out that way, I can take one for you.


It’s beautiful. I love it.

Tell me, is it for sale?

Wow, so cool. Thank you,


Isn’t it neat? I love that she’s dangling the two men and looking at the viewer. I’m sure the poster is for sale – my mom dropped it off this morning as she went to visit her sister. I’ll call her friend and ask how much – I doubt that it’s much as it is not in the best of condition and should be restored.

For more on the silent film, “Let Women Alone,” please click here

Princeton-by-the-Sea: Coastside Luminaries Celebrate Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at the New Oceano Hotel & Spa



(Photo: Indoor Shopping Mall with beautiful glass roof)
By June Morrall

The crowds were thick and upbeat in the lobby of the new Oceano Hotel & Spa at Princeton-by-the-Sea. On a drizzly Coastside evening, they were there to witness the long-awaited ribbon cutting ceremony, performed by jovial county Supervisor Rich Gordon.

The lobby was so busy that I couldn’t get a hard count on how many folks had come to celebrate with the Coastside’s Keet Nerhan, the man associated with the nearly completed project.

And in the middle of the festive mood, the loud conversations and live music, I watched Keet Nerhan confidently walk through the jammed room, constantly stopped by well-wishers wanting to shake his hand and offer well deserved congratulations.

Remember that the Oceano Hotel & Spa is opening in the early stages of what appears to be a serious economic recession.

For Nerhan, reaching tonight’s ribbon cutting ceremony has been a long, hard journey (and I’m sure there’s a book in it), a project that has been in the works for decades (and one that famous developer Henry Doelger considered in the 1950s).

The Oceano Hotel &Spa is surely the most complex project Keet Nerhan has worked on in his entire career—and one has only to look at the attention to detail to appreciate the accomplishment.

The Oceano Hotel & Spa has impressive conference facilities that feature fine views of the harbor and Pillar Point. There’s a nautical theme throughout; for example, a model yacht placed above the fireplace and a variety of seashells used creatively. This motif is carried throughout the hotel

It’s not just a hotel, though; you must look up when you’re walking through the indoor shopping mall with its extraordinarily beautiful glass “roof.â€? No shops were open yet, and I have no idea how many have been rented.

The restaurant-in-the-round, or so it looked to me, is an eye-catcher and I’m certain there are beautiful harbor views.

For little Princeton-by-the-Sea, a harbor-fishing village with some 450 permanent residents, the Oceano Hotel & Spa is an amazing project bigger than anything else nearby. It will definitely become a venue for people and families hungry for something fun to do—close to home, easy on the gas tank–and that is why I feel it will be a success.

As for me, I hope that good take-out restaurants move in. As a superb blueprint, I’m thinking of the Ferry Building in San Francisco—where everything is fresh and comes from local farms and flower growers. We have the talent right here on the Coastside.

And I have never encountered a grumpy salesperson or moody waiter at the Ferry Building—They must give a congeniality test to all potential employees; everyone is so cheerful and loves what they are doing. I hope that’s what we get at the Oceano Hotel & Spa.

But the Oceano Hotel & Spa will have its supporters and its detractors, and the argument over what is appropriate for the Coastside will continue to be a bitter source of controversy


(Photos below: Getting the ribbon ready for cutting and Supervisor Rich Gordon poses for me–I was using an Iphone).


(Photos below: Keet Nerhan (at right) with Supervisor Rich Gordon; Fireplace)

The Princeton-by-the-Sea…In My Mind…


For many Coastsiders— Princeton-by-the-Sea— lives on in a special cove in the mind—a space carefully protected from invasions of the ordinary.

In today’s world where new American cities and towns are designed in advance, all identical, with no surprises, no serendipity, Princeton-by-the-Sea has been the antithesis of suburbia and that’s why we love it.

Ordinary has never applied to Princeton-by-the-Sea.

There were times when Princeton reminded me of my disorganized closet or messy garage–I’m referring to the streets named for Ivy League universities, lined with endearing homemade architecture– interspersed with hundreds of crab traps and decaying fishing boats.

When I crossed Highway 1 (from suburbia on the east side), I happily walked westward into another dimension—it was a great place for a kid to grow up, the oldtimers told me. Example: In the 1940s if you needed a stick of furniture, Mr. Patroni, the owner of a local hotel, said, “You can borrow a chest of drawers from my roadhouse.â€?

“Princeton-by-the-Seaâ€? is a place, unlike most places, that has been known by many other colorful names: Whalers Cove, Patronis, Small Cannery Row, Ida’s, Hazel’s, the Drag Strip, the Abalone Factory, the Point Beyond, and more recently, Mavericks and the Golf Ball.

Oh, yes and a name that didn’t stick was “the Polynesian Village.â€?

Some of the Half Moon Bay kids raced their cars up the hill to Pillar Point before the radar station appeared, laughing as their tires kicked up clods of dirt, feeling a rush of adrenaline up there, high above the Pacific.

Every so often, the owner of Pillar Point would drive down from San Francisco to check on his property [yes, there was an owner, reportedly a descendant of a ranchero]– and upon spotting the juvenile trespassers, wagged his finger and chased them away.

A couple of generations later, the Coastside’s teenagers ventured out to what they called “Beyond the Point,â€? where, alone, during the winter months, they stood, mesmerized by the crazy surf and the wall of 60 foot waves…..

Treasured snapshots and the “Princeton-by-the-Sea” in my mind.

I have derived immeasurable pleasure from funky Princeton-by-the-Sea, and now it’s payback time–and the only way I know how….my book: “Princeton-by-the-Sea, published by Arcadia, will be available in the bookstores for Christmas (and there will be a booksigning at Bay Book on Friday, December 14 at 7 pm) I hope you will enjoy the book.