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“A Palimpsest of old Sonoma County”

Dinucci's Italian Dinners
Price range: $10 - $15
Cuisines: Italian
Dining options: Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Reviewed May 17, 2014

Once upon a time, before Sonoma County became a slightly gentrified version of Marin County mashed up with a bit of Napa County nouveau riche, it was filled with the most amazing restaurants, all of which had great character and excellent food. Sonoma County was founded, in part, by Swiss-Italian immigrants, and Dinucci's in Valley Ford is part of that heritage and is a cultural legacy of a Sonoma County that is hard to still find. It is a palimpsest of another time. And the food is quite good!

I had the pleasure of dining there recently with my partner while returning from Goat Rock. "Dinucci's!" I declared, having not eaten there in twenty years but remembering it was "an experience" and quite delicious. Filled with local charm, from named tables to kitschy paintings that may not be hung with much irony, to fresh roses on every table, we sat down and ordered lightly. Or so we thought.

The meal started with an appetizer platter with pickled carrots, salami, three bean salad, bread, and butter, quickly followed by an exceptional minestrone soup. Everything was perfect. Also, the fully stocked bar sent over two Old Fashioneds (my drink of choice), and they were spot on. After this came a little ravioli taster with marinara sauce that was to DIE FOR. No, wait, let me say this more emphatically: the marinara sauce was literally to die for. Unlike so many brushes with sauce that left me wondering what on earth is difficult about getting a marinara sauce to just taste like fresh tomatoes, this one tasted like that: like vine-ripened tomatoes without any fuss to it. A little iceberg lettuce salad followed (typical Americana style; not my favorite thing, but it wasn't a bad salad by any means, and at this point, we were starting to wonder if we had room for the main courses besides). Finally, out came my spaghetti with more of the wonderful marinara sauce, and along with it, my partner's very nice chicken marsala. The chicken was wonderful although not quite tender enough, but with such ambiance and such a perfect marsala sauce plus heaps of fresh mushrooms, who wants to be choosy? An excellent dessert list was eschewed for obvious reasons.

While this was not the most delicious meal I've ever had, it was, for once, a real meal. It was not the meal dreamt up by foodies with gastronomy degrees but rather a home-cooked meal created by someone's great-grandmother whose parents came from the Swiss Italian Alps, served with many frills, great fanfare, and excellent service. HIGHLY recommended if you are tired of all of the boring four-star restaurants and bistros that weary the "historic" downtowns of Sonoma County all the way from Petaluma to Healdsburg. At Dinucci's, instead you'll be treated with real, authentic regional cuisine and can actually say, "I've been to Sonoma County."

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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37 - 41 of 53 reviews

Reviewed April 4, 2013

The first impression, entering through a noisy, smelly bar, was almost enough to turn around and try somewhere else. However, the old and infancy dining room had cheerful and attentive wait staff. The soup starter course was excellent. We should have just had soup and bread. That would have been a four star meal. However, we had the regular plate of pickles and salami, then the O.K. spinach ravioli, before our entrée came. The chicken in wine was adequate, the veal parmagian was not generous, not breaded, and not interesting. Clearly, the locals have kept this place open for a hundred years, it wasn't the travel advisories.

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1  Thank johanfredrick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 21, 2013

Prix fixe dinners for around $20.00 includes minestrone salad and entre.
Plenty of very good food with enough to take home.
Locals are here and it fills up fast on weekends.

1  Thank bob g
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 31, 2013

All I can say is YUM! 5 of us stopped here for dinner after paddling nearby. We arrived right at 5pm and good thing we did. About 15 minutes after being seated the place was full! Prices are reasonable considering you get a 6 course meal with each entree. I had the Calamari and it was the best I've had. The minestrone soup....Wow! Fresh bread, pasta with their home made sauce as another treat. I wish I had room for one of their home made deserts, but we were all quite full. Service and hospitatlity great too! I'll be back for sure.

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1  Thank Lynster82
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 21, 2013

Well, make sure you have reservations ahead of time....we waited 1.25 hours to be seated, despite being told it would be 40 minutes; another 10 minutes for the plate of carrots and celery to be delivered, another hour for entree, and finally finished at 915, the only one of 4 parties left in the whole restaurant.
Other people were tired of the wait and went up to the hostess to order food to take away which did seem to come out of the kitchen fairly quickly.
The salad swam in dressing and was limp; the food so-so....the bar scene was fun to watch the regulars come in and obviously there are quite a few regulars. The Bar tender was so friendly and the only one who was helpful. The canister behind the bar and posters were fun to read but leave your political correctness at the door.
The server was sweating profusely. He was trying to keep up with a large amount of tables but it was not going well. Chef Gordon, they could use your help with menu, pacing, and ambiance. We sat in the clown room and they were covered with dust and stare down at you--creepy.
I would only recommend if you had 3.5 hours or a very large group with a celebration and didn't care about food quality.

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1  Thank SilverStar-7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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