Typically I spend 3-4 days per week with a client in Ukiah. I discovered Piacere almost 2 years ago, while working my way through every restaurant north of Santa Rosa, trying to find great places to eat. Once I discovered Piacere, that's pretty much the only place I go for dinner now, even though it's a half-hour drive each way to eat there. My only real complaint is that it isn't open Mondays and I have to eat somewhere else. My wife will drive 2 hours in bad traffic (each way) whenever her schedule allows her the opportunity to join me at Piacere for dinner.
So what is so great? The food is absolutely wondeful, and the atmosphere is that of a classic family-owned neighborhood trattoria where pretty much everybody in town goes for a special meal, or to just meet and chat with one another. No pretensions, just great food in a relaxed and romantic atmosphere. One night I brought some friends from Hopland (~12 miles farther north) to dinner there, along with some bottle-sized samples from the barrels of Wilson 2007 zinfandels to taste. While we were there, we started chatting with the folks at the next table, who had just bought a house near to my friends' but they hadn't met each other yet. So we included them in the tasting. Then another party of four showed up, who were long-time next-door neighbors of my friends. We all got talking and the wine tasting expanded to all three tables. Many other nights when dining alone, I often end up drawing maps to my favorite wineries for other customers I've engaged in conversations.
The owners, Jose and Mary, are warm and welcoming, and make you feel a part of the family. They make all their own bread fresh every day (I particularly like the jalapeno-feta cheese bread but Jose doesn't make it often enough), a huge variety of soups (only one each day) also made completely from scratch, and both classic and wonderfully inventive and intriguing new sauces on the entrees.
Although I often order meat since I'm a big red wine fan, all of their seafood is fresh and superb - the BBQ oysters are huge and delicious down to the last drop of liquid from the shell,but their prawns, crab cakes, calamari and steamed clams or mussels are all great. If the scallone is on the special menu, get it! The steaks are always done perfectly, absolutely correct in their doneness - my medium rare is brown on the edges, a little bit of pink, and mostly still bloody in the center. Yum! My favorite desserts are the home made Tiramisu (by Mary) and flan (by Jose).
When I bring guests or business clients, Jose and Mary always do their best to help me impress them, often making up new and special appetizers or entrees just for us. Once when I couldn't decide what to order, Jose came back with a platter containing both a petite filet mignon and a halibut steak, each with it's own perfectly balanced sauce, three huge prawns with their own sauce and a half-dozen steamed mussels. My Warthen's duct is ejaculating (saliva) just thinking about it now. He will often change the sauce on a dinner special to match the wine I brought with me.
Most restaurants with this quality of food try to "turn" the tables quickly, to maximize the number of meals (and profit) each evening. I never feel hurried or pressured at Piacere; when dining alone I typically take two hours or more over my meal (have to, the portions are huge!), and with friends we often exceed 4 hours.
Although the prices are high compared to the other fast food, Thai, Mexican places in Cloverdale, for the quality of the food the prices are a bargain. THe same food would be 50% more in SF or Berkeley.
The wine list concentrates on reasonable-priced offerings from local wineries, nothing over $48/bottle, in keeping with a neighborhood place in Cloverdale. Since I am way up on the palatability scale and have many friends with wineries I usually bring my own.
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