Girasole Pizza charms each visitor by adhering to traditional recipes that call for fresh ingredients. Each gourmet, thin-crust pie is crowned with premium toppings such as smoked salmon, fennel sausage, and basil leaves before being prepared in the time-honored Italian manner⎯baked in a brick oven the shape of a boot. Made-from-scratch pastas mingle with house sauces and meats under sprinklings of shredded cheese, and antipasti—with star ingredients such as baked eggplant and roasted tomatoes—incorporate produce from local farmers' markets. Meals maintain their authenticity through the end with slices of olive-oil cake and tiramisu accented by whipped mascarpone.
After growing up in the Basilicata region of southern Italy and training in fine Florentine restaurants, Sergio Mirabelli exported his culinary talents to America. A year later, in 1995, he and his wife, Francesca, opened their first eatery on Oakland's restaurant row. Sergio's Steak & Seafood is the Mirabelli family's latest dining establishment—another outlet for the traditional cuisine of Sergio’s childhood. “My family were hunters and we know how to cook game," Mirabelli told Art Garcia of the Folsom Telegraph. He and his Sicilian chef prove this daily by crafting specials built around wild game and fresh seafood in addition to housemade pasta and sauces.
Mirabelli and his wife typically roam the restaurant, greeting guests at the door and making people feel at home; Francesca has even started offering cooking classes where students can learn how to bake biscotti. And their gregarious personalities have won over customers and critics alike. The cozy eatery was ranked the No. 1 Folsom restaurant on TripAdvisor, and Mirabelli has appeared several times on CW 31 Good Day Sacramento's Dishin' With Tina. Even Sacramento magazine got in on the action, hailing the restaurant's "generous portions of lusty food" and old-style Italian ambiance, which is created in part by tapestries depicting scenic, Mediterranean-like landscapes, and in part by analysts predicting the fall of the Roman Empire.
The oven admirals at Straw Hat Pizza bake an extensive fleet of California-style pizza. The kitchen team prepares each crust to pack a flaky, crispy, crunch-causing texture, creating a sturdy foundation capable of supporting cheese, sauce, toppings, and hardbound copies of Mark McGwire's autobiography. A large chicken-bacon-ranch pizza saturates taste-sensory apparatuses with a dual-meat format and a vegetable cast of tomatoes and red onions, and the large aloha chicken merges chicken, ham, pineapple, and bacon on a highway of barbecue and red sauce (each $17.99 for a 15"). Vegetarians can imbibe the windfall of grown ingredients that fill out the large California veggie pie—a conference of zucchini, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices, and white sauce ($17.99 for a 15"). Straw Hat Pizza also puts together an impressive roster of hot sandwiches, such as the sauce-packed meatball version ($5.49).
Vaiano Trattoria's husband-and-wife owners, Nathan Hickok and Patrizia Russo-Hickok, must have felt proud when the Granite Bay View called their food "authentic, fresh, and real." Patrizia hails from Vaiano, Italy, and runs this eatery with her restaurant-veteran husband as a way to recapture the food crafted by her mother and grandmother. On a menu that's rustic and flavorful—like a chocolate-covered log cabin—the chefs top pappardelle with braised wild boar and mostaccioli with mushrooms and pancetta. The interior complements the food, with mottled walls in a golden yellow and iron wall sconces mirroring that of an Old World trattoria. The staff also enjoys updating the wine list with new finds from Italy and pairing them with house specials.
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Original Pete's—the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde’s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner’s Horse IPA. Pete’s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red—a malty, medium-bodied amber ale—improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
Cooks at Pizza Factory have been stacking their house-made dough with homemade sauce, pure mozzarella cheese, and fresh toppings since 1978. In addition to assembling customized pizzas that can hoist more than 30 toppings, they bake up specialty pies, including the beef- and salsa-topped Fiesta and the Canadian bacon-packed Greasy Spoon, which, like its namesake, only sticks to noses for half of a second. They round out their menu of Italian staples with pastas such as spaghetti alfredo, calzones, subs, and an all-you-can-eat salad bar.
With ingredients grown at local farms and in Maranello Restaurant's own garden, Chef Gabriel Glasier brings life to a mixture of traditional, regional, and contemporary Italian recipes drawn from the old world’s tastiest corners. His farm-to-table dishes change seasonally, with weather-appropriate items such as butternut squash ravioli and grilled Scottish salmon with cauliflower spaetzle gracing tables only when the time is right. Gabriel also tops hand-tossed pizza with grilled chicken and fire-roasted tomato sauce and crafts desserts such as a flaming s'more with homemade marshmallow and chocolate cashew butter cream.
To help wash down each hearty helping, mixologists behind Maranello Restaurant's antique 1920s bar whip up signature house cocktails, pull pints of draft beers, and pour reds and whites imported from Italy and made at small, regional California wineries. No matter the date on t he calendar, guests can savor their feasts at the bar, in the main dining room, or inside a covered, heated patio that maintains a constant outdoor vibe with abundant plants and tranquil fountains rather than roaming bears.