In the house

Anna Petruolo’s childhood included a lot of “vegetable loving.”

“You have to love that tomato,” she said of her plants. “That tomato is going to give you everything.”

She gained that perspective from her father. He’s from Italy, where food is commonly homegrown. Now she’s passing on that love of food through her business, A Dinner Together.

The business provides in-home culinary services with fresh, local, organic ingredients. It got off the ground in April and has seen slow but steady growth – enough to satisfy its staff of two. Petruolo puts in about 40 hours a week developing and promoting the business along with meal planning, preparation and clean-up. Lisa Robbins works part-time in business operations.

“The whole main focus of my business is to get people together, to eat together, to talk about life,” Petruolo said. “My perfect client is someone who wants to spend more time with their family but can’t.”

First Petruolo gets to know clients’ preferences, dietary restrictions and kitchens. Then she shows up with pots, pans and ingredients. She prefers a week’s notice for each meal.

Prices vary with each meal; dinner for two can cost $150, and hors d’oeuvres for 10 are about $300. Menu ideas are at, which has had 10,000 hits since May.

Referrals and networking have drawn in most of its clients thus far. November and December have been busiest, each averaging about four reservations.

Though revenues have been small, start-up costs were nominal since overhead is low, and the business hasn’t lost money. Petruolo expects growth and plans to work full-time with A Dinner Together in about a year. Right now she’s also working as a massage therapist in Vancouver’s Uptown Village.

A challenge for the business also lies in its specialty – providing fresh, local organic food.

“I want to instill the importance of homegrown food,” Petruolo said. “Not all our food is safe.”

But most chemical-free produce isn’t available year-round, and Petruolo said land for organic farms is hard to come by. She estimates organic produce costs about 20 percent more than other greens. But it pays off in taste and nutritional value, along with support of local farmers.

Much of Petruolo’s produce comes from Clark County farms or her own garden. But for out-of-season produce she heads to Portland’s natural food stores. She said Vancouver merchants simply don’t have the fresh, organic food she wants to serve.

“We don’t have options now and that’s too bad,” she said.

To help remedy that, Petruolo is involved with the Vancouver Food Cooperative, which is developing a community-owned, natural food store.

A Dinner Together’s in-home cooking classes will debut after the holidays. They’ll be three-hour, hands-on sessions at about $50 per person, depending on ingredients.

The business could branch out into formal workshops, catering or a restaurant, but Petruolo’s most interested in bringing healthy food to homes.

“It’s a good time for people to sit down and unwind, to just enjoy each other’s company,” she said.

A Dinner Together

Anna Petruolo, owner and personal chef



Charity Thompson can be reached at

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