“When my mother comes, she makes rabbit — she’s here now in fact,” says Donato Scotti, owner and chef of the charming Redwood City-based Donato Enoteca Restaurant. He sped up as he continued to tell the story. “You know, we were poor as kids (referring to where he grew up in northern Italy) so rabbit on the weekend was a treat. I loved it.”
Charming, eloquent, authentic and oh so old world Italian, chatting with Donato was one of our favorite moments of dining at this fabulous Italian eatery, cosied up on a corner in a pocket of Redwood City that has many other cafes and restaurants within a few block radius.
“Fresh food matters – you can really tell the difference,” he echoes and we couldn’t agree more. Freshness comes through as does organic ingredients which they get from local farmers in the area. For example, the divine fava beans in the special appetizer below comes from Iacopi Farms.
Champagne to start? Not quite – they kicked things into gear with a 2016 Mazzolino Rose Brut Lombardia, which is made of 100% Pinot Noir. It was a perfect way to start a warm August evening in the South Bay. Bravo Donato Enoteca.
For starters, they had us try the Bruschetta di Cinghiale, which is hand pulled braised wild boar with onion (so tender), and Chianti vinegar on a grilled ciabatta.
This was followed by their Special Burrata Mousse, which they make with fresh peppers in a fava bean puree – it was oh so simple, but oh so divine!
If you love Italian food, you’re probably wondering how the pasta is, right? Let’s start with an unusual number — their Bigoli pasta which is made in a wine sauce (using Nebbiolo) and braised. The prize? A combo of oxtail and asparagus.
The most notable thing about this dish however other than the fact that the oxtail is so tender and just melts in your mouth, is that this homemade pasta is egg-less.
They paired this gem with a 2013 Oreia Mascelloni Family Estate Sangiovese (not on the menu), which was a perfect accompaniment to this simple but elegant pasta.
BTW, whenever we are tasting many dishes in an evening at an Italian eatery, I typically have a few bites of the pasta and leave the rest because it tends to be so filling, leaving no room for anything else. In this case, we both polished off the scrumptious Bigoli. Yup, it was that good and not to be missed.
Risotto fans will fall in love with their Carnaroli risotto parmigiana with a crispy Niman Ranch pork belly. Once again, so tender that it melts in your mouth. How many A+ dishes can one restaurant have on a menu? It’s clear that Donato and his team cook from the heart — the result is culinary divinity from the kitchen all night long.
Wine lovers take note. They paired this perfectly cooked risotto with a 2013 Voerzio Langhe Nebbiolo Piemonte and it was nearly my favorite wine of the evening. Read on to see which Italian red won our hearts over.
I should mention that they had a number of delicious Pizzas on the menu and other pasta choices as well, including an organic buckwheat one with mushrooms and garlic. And, they’re wood-burning oven pizzas — yum!
Photo credit: Donato Enoteca
We went with old world meat and classic Italian fish, the Branzino. Most Italian culinary snobs will have experienced Branzino as a whole fish (and they DO serve the whole fish) but because of the number of dishes we were sampling, they gave us a grilled version of it (thankfully), which was sauteed with capers and accompanied by Broccoli (Anthony’s favorite).
Sadly, our extra photographic light was out so some of our shots are on the darker side. In other words, the dishes were as beautifully presented as they tasted.
Because we had already turned to reds, we didn’t turn back to whites for the solo fish dish but instead paired it with a lighter red on the menu, their 2012 Gulfi Sicilia Nero D’avola (Nerojbleo). Whoah Nellie!
I was in heaven and thought surely there can’t be more but Peruvian manager Juan Morante wanted us to try a classic favorite on the menu called the Garreto Di Maiale Brasato.
If you don’t speak Italian, let me translate. This insanely scrumptious dish is their Braised “Duroc” pork shank (more tenderness please), which they cook with organic Italian frying peppers (melts in your mouth), Soave wine, oregano and thyme. We were so full at this juncture that a taste was all we could bare, but let’s just say that Donato’s final dish put me over the edge.
When Donato finally came out of the kitchen to chat, all I could think of was how quickly I could get him over to our house for a cooking lesson. Foodies can dream, right? “I’ll take you and your mother,” I thought to myself. Rabbit, pork, homemade pasta – bring it on.
Above, Donato in the kitchen
We actually boxed it up and had it for brunch two days later — the sauces had even more time to soak in and it was absolutely perfect. While we almost never mention price in a restaurant review, I thought it was worth doing so here because this perfectly cooked pork shank was only a $26 entree and the Bigolipasta was only $19.
If you’re not in the mood for a four hour dinner, simply sit at the bar, order the above two dishes and a salad to share, and you’ll be one happy camper. Add to it a glass of the 2011 Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino Toscana, which was by far my favorite of the evening and you’ll be in pure heaven. Juan referred to it as a Baby Barolo and we couldn’t agree more!
They had more than ten Barolos on the menu btw, one of which you could get by the glass as well as a 2012 Venturini Amarone Veneto by the glass, which I’ve tried once in the past – t’was “delizioso!”
Their wine menu was “perfetto” and for serious old world style lovers, you’ll be happy to hear that they have a Reserve section which included a wide range of Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscan (go early and have them decant the 2001 Piero Antinori Toscana Solaia) and Altri.
Dessert, dessert, dessert. We didn’t try any chocolate numbers, given how many dishes were sent our way that evening. In this case, one of their homemade sorbets would be a perfect choice.
We sampled their Melon Sorbet, melon pearls with brown caramelized sugar and semifreddo (think chilled custard and almonds in this case) with a sparkling wine.
For those unfamiliar with semifreddo, it is a class of semi-frozen desserts where the principal ingredients are usually eggs, sugar and cream. It has the texture of frozen mousse and the similar dessert in Spain is called semifrío.
One other thing to note about this Silicon Valley restaurant is the coffee they serve, which is Giovanni Erbisti. Donato Enoteca is apparently the only importer of this Verona-based coffee in the United States.
They’ve been around since 1947 and the flavor and fragrance is a combination of chocolate, honey and walnuts. Ma che meraviglia!! Two thumbs up – we will definitely return!
1041 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA 94063
Note: we were guests of the restaurant but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.