At Home with Barbie and Dan Spinazzola
Posted on Nov. 1, 2016
As Thanksgiving approaches, one couple deserving of many thanks is Barbie and Dan (“Spinner”) Spinazzola of Fairbanks Ranch, for whom giving and gratitude are essential to their lives. Casa de Amparo, Patrons of the Prado, St. Vincent de Paul, and Vista Hill are just some of the organizations that benefit from their ongoing support. The couple also has chaired numerous fundraisers for the San Diego Police Foundation, Sharp HospiceCare, and City Ballet of San Diego. “We are passionate about our work,” says Barbie. “It’s not just about raising money; it’s the hard work of making events successful.”
Just recently, in September, Dan was one of five visionary leaders recognized by Junior Achievement San Diego. The organization inducted him into the San Diego Business Hall of Fame for both his business and philanthropic contributions. In 2007, Nice Guys Inc. named Dan “Nice Guy of the Year” for his humanitarian efforts. The organization has given millions of dollars over the years to those who deserve “a hand up — not a handout.”
Dan, the founder and chairman of Diversified Restaurant Systems, knows what it’s like to need the help of others. Years ago, after a business deal gone wrong, he went into a downward spiral. “I hit a wall,” he reflects. “I lost it all.” Slowly, he found his way back through friends, family, and faith. That support inspired him to devote his life to helping others find their way back. “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve been knocked down,” he reflects. “Everybody has. But what’s important is that you get up again.” He made a deal with God, turning his life around by committing to others.
Barbie, who was the longtime business manager at Blessed Sacrament Church in San Diego, considers Dan to be an angel sent from above during a difficult time in her own life. “I am very grateful for him,” she says. “We share so much together. It has been a wonderful journey.”
That journey began 20 years ago when friends fixed them up. Their first date was at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Pacific Beach followed by dinner at World Famous on the boardwalk. “That was it,” Dan recalls. “I started deleting phone numbers on my cell phone. I knew it was her.” Two years later, they were married in a fairytale wedding in Rome, with a reception at a nearby 12th century castle. Many wedding guests joined the couple on their honeymoon — a tour of Italy aboard a chartered bus.
Their blended family — four children and eight grandchildren — is central to their life. The Spinazzolas often host large family gatherings at their home. The spacious dining room table can seat the entire famiglia. True to his Italian roots, Dan is the chef and loves to cook for a crowd. Homemade meatballs, pasta dishes, and pizzas from the outdoor oven are favorites. He donates a “Dinner with Spinner” to raise money for charities, preparing six-course dinners with wine at the homes of the winning bidders. When they dine out, the Spinazzolas favor Bertrand at Mister A’s, Truluck’s, West Steakhouse, Market, Donovan’s, and Dolce.
Their Fairbanks Ranch home, decorated with the help of Robbie Interiors, is both elegant and comfortable. “Everything in the home has a family memory or a connection,” says Barbie. “Everything has meaning.” Treasures include an antique wooden cross that belonged to Dan’s parents, who emigrated from Italy. Barbie’s English-born mother met her American husband during World War II, and later immigrated to New York through Ellis Island. Dan and Barbie were close to their parents, whom they consider to have been proud Americans, no matter where they were born. “I think Thanksgiving is a time when we need to be grateful for the many things that have happened in our lives,” says Dan, quietly, “the country we live in, and blessings we give and receive.” Andrea Naversen