Looked for Italian restaurants on the Pennisula & found this website. Saw Chef Mario making Gnocchi with it rolled like a rope about 12-14 inches long as my Nonna (grandmother) & Mama used to do and then they broke it into 1-2 inch pieces with their little finger. Knowing there was an Italian in the kitchen and the entire website convinced us we needed try this restaurant. We live in the North Bay and only a business meeting brought us down the Pennisula but now we have a social reason to return. Over the years when we've needed be in the South Bay, we've tried many Italian restaurants from South SF to San Jose, some 40 miles, and this recent memorable dining experience allows me to confidently state that this restaurant is the most authentic Italian one in which we've had the pleasure to try. What is is my opinion worth ? I go to Italy at least once per year (my parents, grandparents & many relatives are born in Italy) and a main objective is to enjoy the food-as most people know, it is no place for a diet. Ever heard of people flying from LA to SF just to have dinner & then fly back that same evening? Want to dine as if you were in Italy but avoid a 15+ hour flight, jet lag etc.? Eat here !!! First I wish to say we arrived at 5pm & we were the first there and in a new restaurant one criteria used by my wife is to check out the bathroom because if it is not clean, she feels that the kitchen is not either. She'll come out & say she doesn't feel well & off we go. As I'm continuing my review, obviously the bathroom was spotless & we fortunately stayed.
I have one complaint & let me get it off my chest early-the warm bread & delectible crust is TOO delicious and habit forming. Growing up we were poor and my Mama needed us to fill up in addition to Pasta every day on Bread so I can't break the habit although Carbo loading at my age results in a spread around the middle because I can't burn enough calories to create exercise to avoid it. I remember fondly in my family when ever we were a bit chubby that others would say "Benedica la Prosperita'" which meant that thank God we were prosperous enough to eat sufficiently to gain weight. Oh for the old days....don't think that today's Cardiologists would share my family's traditions. In Italy there is an expression "Fare La Scarpetta"(little shoe) & the bread is used to scoop up the sauce. The very genial & competent waiter, Kristyan, who is from an Apuglian town only 10 minutes from where my Nonni (grandparents) & Mama were born recommended a superb Sangiovese wine and as my wife doesn't drink as I do, I ordered by the glass & he was nice enough to open a new bottle. I realize one can cork the red wine and still drink it a day or two later but personally, I find the taste not the same the next day. With 3 very generous pourings, I finished the bottle. Looking at the menu was difficult as there were too many delightful selection opportunities. Want to return here with a group of 4-6-8 people etc. and like a Chinese style have each order something different and pass it around. The restaurant has a wonderful warm & inviting Italian upstairs section for groups. But Kristyan very courtesly offered to do "splits" for my wife and me-some restaurants charge an extra few $ to do this but we were not charged. We started with the "Guazzetto di Cozze" (steamed Mussels in a tomato sauce) & the delicate Mussels melted in our mouths but the broth was something I could have drunk in a coffee mug it was that tasty. We split a mixed green salad with a just right Italian not overpowering dressing. My wife loves "Ravioli Repieni di Ricotta e Spinaci "(filled with Ricotta cheese & Spinach) & the "split' gave us 3 very large homemade Raviolis each-just awesome !!! I wanted so badly to have the "Linguine con Vongole"( Clams) but I saw "Fettuccine ala Bolognese"(meat sauce) & this is one of the items I use to judge food at a new restaurant so indulged. Now with our second basket of bread we were really cleaning up the Tomato Sauce from the plates-this gesture is also a compliment to the chef. What the word "shoe" has to do with scooping up the sauce I don't know but I guess that "La Scarpetta" also refers to Cinderella's glass slipper & when she put her foot in it, it was magical & heaven for the Prince as it is scooping up some savory sauce, maybe the best part of the meal. I remember my Mother used to say as she kept eating and eating and we asked why, she responded "per togliermi lo sfizio". The word "sfizio" is not easy to translate but remember a potato chip company ad was you could not eat just one and like eating peanuts, it's not easy to stop. In English I would guess it's like satisfying a yen. Well, my "sfizio" here was that the Bread( Awesomely Delicious) just wants to make me continue long after we are full. There's an Italian proverb which may help to explain "lo sfizio" and it's " l'appetitio viene mangiando"-one's appetite increases eating. And it is never more evident than in this wonderful "ristorante".
I can't comment on other items on the menu-we were too full to try any entrees but the place filled up as we were leaving & I had the opportunity to gaze at the various plates of inviting aromatic dishes. What was really special was that the owner, Elio, came to our table & when I learned he was from Calabria where my father was born we were like family reunited and despite his "ristorante" filling up rapidly, he sat & chatted with us & we were never made to rush as happens in many places where they need turn the tables. As I've noticed in many Italian restaurants in the Bay Area, the cooks are Latin and have been trained by Italians but the food is never the same as if cooked by an Italian. The cook on our night was Sicilian-hmmm ??? Many Sicilians might feel they are a separate country but yes, they are Italian !!!
This may not be a practice of the restaurant so I do not want anyone to be disappointed if they expect it but as we were asked if we wanted dessert & the loaf and half of bread did me in, we were too full but I do need my Espresso. Suddenly, we find two glasses of Port and a decadent Chocolate Tort---"che buon gesto"(what a wonderful gesture) ! Actually, we couldn't finish the Fettuccine Bolognese & I said the small portion & one piece of bread left would make a great appetizer when I watched the news at 11pm. Although we had just met, it seemed like we all were old friends & gave eachother an "Abbraccio"-yup, it's OK for Italian men to give eachother a brief hug. Good restaurant experiences now are more than the food. In fact a friendly waiter can make average food still a pleasant experience. I know I was prejudiced learning that the waiter & owner were from Regions from which I have ancestors but they could have been born in America as I am born in the USA and I would still have said the food was excellent !!! As I had enjoyed 3 large glasses of Sangiovese & a Port I was a bit euphoric-my wife drives if any law enforcement people read this-and I vaguely recall as Kristyan handed me the "Too Go" bag that he commented he put in some extra sauce(oops, hope he doesn't get in trouble with Elio). Couldn't believe it-had only one piece of bread left but he gave us four pieces and the sauce was too much for me to just have a late evening appetizer so my wife and I had a wonderful lunch the next day recalling our memorable evening.
The restaurant name is "Sapore" (flavor, taste etc.) and I could not find a more appropriate name as "Saporito" or extremely flavorable & tasty was the entire memorable experience & we will gladly travel the 35-40 miles from our home to visit this place again-it's cheaper than flying to Italia to find an authentic cooking !!!
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