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““Italian Oasis in Northern California Redwood Tree Country””

Mario's Ristorante Italiano
Dining options: Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Reviewed June 1, 2008

We live in the Bay Area & wanted to hit the Indian Casinos off Route 101 north of Santa Rosa for the Memorial Day weekend & then head up to Avenue of The Giants(Redwoods) & then over to Fort Bragg & down coastal Route 1by Mendocino & then back to Marin County. I tell you this because if anyone desires to do the same itinerary ,some of it or just traveling North or South on 101 & wants some authentic Italian food-Italian restaurants are very scarce in this area-this is the PLACE !!! We stayed in Ukiah & the hotel recommended this restaurant in between Ukiah & Willits off Route 101. Unfortunately, we were not advised to make a
reservation & it was packed & we were told at 6pm there were no openings until after 8pm. Explaining we were tourists, not locals, I said the hotel should have told us to make a reservation & they still could have said "Sorry" but told us to wait a few minutes to see if they could fit us in. This is probably a restaurant that passing by motorists don't frequent on a regular basis as do the locals but we were still accomodated in a most friendly & warm manner & the place was buzzing busy. Looking at the menu, I knew the kitchen was run by an Italian-so many in the Bay Area,
even in the North Beach area of San Francisco, many of the cooks, however well trained, are Latins.

Over the years when we've been in this Region , we've tried other Italian restaurants & 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. One very nice thing on the menu is the availabilty for just a few dollars more to have a family style meal including soup & salad. I had the Mellanzane alla Parmigiana(Eggplant) and my wife had a favorite she uses to judge a new restaurant, Spaghetti con Polpette (Meatballs)-both dishes YUM YUM and
"erano piatti come facevano le mie Nonna e Mama"(as my Grandmother & Mother used to make). Ordered a 1/2 carafe of red wine & they were out of containers so they gave me a full carafe & when I told the waiter he jokingly said to drink only 1/2 & he would mark the bottle if I wished. It was a wonderful gesture as naturally he could have filled it only half full. They were out of candles to make the table romantic & I said don't worry about it but they brought me a long one I'm sure is used if there is
a power shortage. The walls are filled with Italian memorabilia & Dean Martin is singing Volare & That's Amore & setting is like a
Trattoria/Osteria or informal good food ristorante in a small village in Italia. I can't comment on other items on the menu-we were too full to even try dessert but the place filled up as we were leaving & I had the opportunity to gaze at the various plates of inviting aromatic dishes. I have one complaint -the warm homemade bread is TOO delicious and habit forming !!! There's an Italian proverb " l'appetitio viene mangiando"-one's appetite increases eating and it is never more evident than in this wonderful "ristorante". 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 delicious sauce with any Pasta dish. 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.

What was really special was that the restaurant's name's owner, Mario, from the beautiful Island of Sicily and his lovely wife, Kris, came out of the kitchen and chatted with us and could not have treated us better if we were family. It all became clear to me about the wonderful, friendly, attentive professional, etc. etc. service from the waitstaff-two of Mario's handsome sons were waiting on us(something I didn't know until the meal was over) & we were never made to rush as happens in many places where they need turn the tables. It's a family owned business run by Italians-if you are in this area, do youselves a favor & try this place, that is if you want tasty Italian authentic food cooked by an Italian.

1  Thank Guaglione
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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