We headed south to Santa Rosa, CA, which is a centrally located place to stay if you plan to do a few days of tasting in the area.
Through a recommendation, we landed at Riviera Ristorante, a family owned and operated Italian Restaurant whose inspiration comes from Mediterranean and local cuisines. They’ve been around for over 25 years and yet, I hadn’t been there despite the fact that I do visit friends in north Marin and beyond a few times a year.
Their main dining room has a cathedral ceiling, and there’s also a quaint and intimate garden room or al fresco under the arbor street side of the restaurant.
The table ordered fried calamari since its such a perfect dish to share and has substance to soak up several hours of cabernet sauvignon splashes and tastes.
Additionally, we opted for the Grilled rustic Italian bread, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Thinly sliced raw ﬁlet mignon served with capers, arugula, lemon and Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Also to share, they have fabulous salads, such as their Arugula served with golden beans, fennel, goat cheese and balsamic vineagrette dressing.
If we had more mouths to feed, I think we would have also ordered the organic radicchio salad served with pears, gorgonzola cheese and fennel (love fennel) and tossed in a balsamic vinaegrette.
My only quirky thing was the fact that they didn’t have a wide array of dressings to choose from – it was either honey dijon mustard or balsamic and I’m not a huge fan of either.
The pasta more than made up for it though and certainly the greens were fresh and inviting. While they have a roasted rack of lamb, a half chicken, a New York steak and two veal entrees, the place is so authentically Italian, you may as well go for one of their delicious pasta dishes or as photographed above, the sauteed prawns, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes or the prawns and scallops veneziana. Yum!
Our table sampled plenty, ranging from the Spaghetti Gran Fondo with seasonal vegetables, garlic, olive oil and dry ricotta, a richer fettuccine bolognese with meat sauce (or you can get with Italian sausage and broccoli), and the even richer Strozzapreti Scott Nydam with smoked chicken, peas, and a wild mushroom sauce. I ordered the latter but with a thinner flatter noodle and tomato sauce.
There’s also the Trofie from Recco: Traditional pesto with potatoes and green beans or the to-die for homemade wild porcini mushroom with cream or fresh tomato basil.
It was a great experience and the service is top notch!! We’d definitely recommend it when you’re venturing to northern California or are in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more food/wine posts, check these out, and also for California food/wine reviews and experiences. Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.