As a child living at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ralph DiTullio spent his Sunday afternoons brewing hearty sauces side by side with his grandfather in preparation for the family dinner. As the smell of tomatoes filled the kitchen, his mother and grandmother cut and boiled fresh pastas. On other occasions, he found himself in the cool darkness of the garage, where his grandfather smashed and fermented his own grapes to make wine. Today, nearly all the recipes at Nonno's Italian Cafe build on the hearty Italian dishes Ralph’s mother and grandmother used to make. In the small mountaintop cafe, Ralph cultivates this same sense of familial bonding with new patrons and usual crowds alike, proffering updates on current weather and traffic to callers from the valley below.
While Ralph begins each day crafting potato-filled breakfast burritos and freshly baked turnovers, his lunch and dinner menus transition into traditional Italian fare, such as pastas stuffed with cheese or topped with artichokes and meatballs. He and his culinary crew fire pizzas outside in a wood oven, stacking each with Mediterranean vegetables and barbecued meats with greater care than an artist painting a still-life jenga tower. Every Friday and Saturday, the staff fires up the barbecue for sizzling steaks and sausages. To complement both hearty and light fare, the culinary crew keeps a cellar of nearly 2,000 wine labels and up to 70 beers, replenishing their stock with selections from mostly small international vintners and brewers. They present a changing roster of these wines at weekly tastings to suit different themes and keep the wines from becoming codependent with the house crystal. While all sampling services are kept at small sizes indoors, they can spill outside to bocce-ball courts with courtside seating for up to 150.
Like many success stories, the Core Fitness tale begins when a business executive quit her job to pursue her true dream. For Nanci Mora, her dream was to become a fitness instructor. After 10 years of training and working as a trainer, she began conducting her own Pilates classes for three friends in her home. As word of Nanci's replenishing and invigorating Pilates workouts spread, her class size continued to expand in an inverse relationship to her students’ waistlines.
Today, Nanci continues to teach Pilates at her own professional studio, Core Fitness, where she and a staff of dancers, Pilates instructors, and fitness professionals teach workout classes throughout the week. Amidst the studio's earth-toned walls and towering mirrors, professional Pilates reformer machines help clients tone bodies.
After Sandro Costanza left his home in Calabria, Italy, in 1988, he devoted decades to waiting tables and cooking his way through Paris, London, and Rome before finally landing in Saratoga. There, he opened Ristorante Da Mario to re-create the bursting flavors and vibrant colors of the southern Italian dishes he remembered from his childhood. Today his chefs forge these staples by layering lasagna, stuffing ravioli, and fluffing gnocchi in-house, and by using a number of lighter cream sauces instead of exclusively glazing entrees with marinara. Although Sandro's wine list features numerous California varietals, it also includes bottles from major wine-producing regions across Italy to complement the authentic dishes.
Faux tuscan walls mimic the cuisine's rustic, down-home approach, but crisp, white tablecloths and framed artwork also lend their touches of refinement to the dining room. Outside, patio seating pairs rich Italian meals with light gulps of fresh air and lets diners keep eyes out for invading Byzantines.
The chefs at Triple Seven Pizzeria shuffle custom combinations of sun-dried tomatoes, pesto sauce, and mozzarella cheese to spread across sourdough crusts made fresh daily and form their gourmet, casino-themed pies. They stack the Texas Hold'em BBQ Chicken pie with grilled chicken breast, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese and crown the Straight Flush with pepperoni, red onions, and italian sausage. Vegetarian pies include the Viva Las Veggies, with black olives, zucchini, and green bell peppers, and the thin-crust Lady Luck, which diners typically blow on before eating, with fresh garlic, basil, and tomatoes. Patrons order from the red-and-black-tiled counter before adjourning to the outdoor dining area or around tables inside that afford views of 42-inch plasma TVs that project football games on Sundays.