Though the flavorful combinations are seemingly endless, there's one thing you can count on from the pizza at Bravos Pizza & Italian restaurant: freshly baked crust topped with whole-milk mozzarella and creamy sauces. Chefs create a multitude of options by customizing pies from the crust up. They smear the pies with a choice of red, white, garlic, or barbecue sauces, which they then top with ingredients as different as pineapple and artichokes. To create their specialty pizzas, they combine complementary flavors, such as the seafood combo's shrimp, baby clams, and garlic over a white-sauce base. But the chefs don't just make pizzas. They also craft traditional Italian favorites, from veal scallopini to fettucini tossed in pesto. Diners can enjoy meals while sipping wine or beer as they watch the restaurant's big-screen TV to figure out which sports team has the strongest t-shirt cannon.
Toscana Ristorante may have opened only in 2006, but chef Samuel Figueroa's culinary chops are of a much thicker cut. Over the course of a 17-year career, which includes a degree from the School of Italian Food Art in Rome, he's honed a large repertoire of traditional Italian fare. In Toscana's kitchen, he and his staff flavor fillets of salmon and veal with accents such as blackberry, lemon butter, and fresh sage. Fillings such as pumpkin, shrimp, and shiitake mushroom stuff raviolis, and marinara and alfredo sauces slather pastas.
Servers transport these and other plates past enormous arched windows in the dining room, which has a floor crisscrossed with elegant arcs of natural light. Racks and shelves behind the blond-wood bar supply white-clothed tables with bottles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, on the verdant outdoor patio, overhanging foliage provides shade for customers and free dessert for their docile pet giraffes.
Pizzas heated over a wood fire and fresh selections of meat and seafood entertain the taste buds of visitors seeking a Tuscan dining experience at Grissini Trattoria. The restaurant's nimble-handed kitchen collaborators top caesar salad with calamari ($12), and smother blank crusts in house-smoked chicken and barbecue sauce on the smoked chicken pizza to proteinize a power lunch ($14). Dinner delicacies, meanwhile, can be preceded by an antipasto of butternut squash ravioli ($9.50), or beef carpaccio, sliced paper thin and served with aged parmesan and a toasted baguette ($9.50). The accommodating staff will cheerfully explain the differences between penne and ziti and demonstrate which noodle can be interlocked into better action figures while you cleanse your physical and metaphorical palate with shrimp linguine ($17) or veal saltimbocca ($24).
Sapore Ristorante's chef and owner, Miguel Zaragoza, instills his recipes with a passion for Italian fare that he has fostered since childhood. He and his practiced team expertly fashion Old-World entrees such as chicken marsala and seafood pastas, and desserts such as homemade tiramisu woo sweet teeth more effectively than love notes scrawled on tablecloths in buttercream frosting.
The appetizer list at Bravo Bistro touts a world of choices, almost literally. Fresh ahi tuna with crunchy wontons sits just beneath salmon carpaccio, giving way to shrimp and scallop ceviche and pomme frites drizzled in truffle oil. The international influence stems from owner and chef Habib El Jacifi, who learned to execute French, Spanish, and Mediterranean recipes growing up in Casablanca, Morocco. Contra Costa Times reviewer Ann Tatko-Peterson had admired Habib’s work at his first restaurant, Fiore, and a visit to Bravo inspired her to gush that the bistro is "proof that experience can lead to perfection.” According to Ann, diners might be loath to efface artfully presented dishes such as gamberi with tiger shrimp and crab, but in doing so will taste a creamy parmesan she likened to the best sauces from Italy. The menu’s entrees are mostly Italian, but patrons will notice subtly multicultural accents such as the apple chutney that sweetens the pork chops or the saffron sauce and caramelized onions that crown the oven-roasted chicken. Sunday brunch furthers the gastronomic globetrotting as diners trek through a prix fixe menu that has featured croissants, chicken penne pesto, quiche, and braised beef stew.
When Giovanni and Virginia Biale settled in San Francisco's Potrero Hill with their three sons in 1922, Giovanni kept his favorite Genoa traditions alive. This included making his own wine, which he'd often serve at family meals. When Prohibition hit, Giovanni secreted his bottles away along the craggy shoreline at Rockaway Beach—dipping into the stash when dining at his nearby vacation home.
Though he might not share this same rebel spirit, Giovanni's grandson Rocco Biale does share his passion for authenticity. At Rocco's Ristorante Pizzeria, he devotes himself to the traditions of Italian cooking and warm hospitality. He pays tribute to his grandfather's winemaking past by curating a list of vintages from Italy and California.
Amidst vintage Italian prints and photographs, diners dig into pasta dishes piled with imported noodles and housemade sauce. These house specialties are joined by pizzas draped with nearly 40 toppings.