There are at least three possible explanations. The first and oldest theory, really no more than an assumption, is that Fante took "Bandini" from the California brand of a well-advertised fertilizer. Even if Arturo's surname did not come by that route directly, Fante would certainly have been aware of, and appreciated, the ironic juxtaposition of the word art in Arturo and the implied shit int the Bandini bag. The second possibility, suggested in the previous chapter, is that Fante created the name Arturo Bandini by mock-Italicizing "author" and "Banning" in a self-ironizing sort of portmanteau nomination, again juxtaposing the unproven artist in Arturo - his vaulting artistic ambitions, his fabulous poverty and grinding failures - with the grand fortunes and successes of Phineas Banning.
The third possibility is somewhat more historically grounded. In his desire to make over his new southern California surroundings into a landscape of his own, Fante was devouring works of local history at both the Wilmington branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and, somewhat later, the Long Beach Public Library. In these researches he may well have come across the figure of Don Arturo Bandini, whose forbears, like the Picos, the Sepulvedas and other landed family dynasties, had been prominent in early southern California. Approaching old age at the close of the nineteenth century, Don Arturo could still remember many of his Bandini forbears, a vigorous line of rancheros renowned for their revolutionary passions and physical beauty. But compared to his ancestors, Don Arturo Bandini seemed a mutant. Unremarkable in his appearance, retiring in his manner, he grew up in old Los Angeles surrounded by books, leading the quiet life of a scholar of early California Christmas pageants. In all, if Fante was in fact aware of his existence, Don Arturo Bandini was the most possible historical original for the fictional Arturo Bandini.
Full Of Life: A Biography of John Fante, Stephen Cooper.