Chianti Cucina sees its creators pooling their varied talents together for an elegant dining experience. One of those talents just happens to be interior design, courtesy of owner Bonnie Robertson. The dining room exudes warmth, thanks to her vision of a floor-to-ceiling wine rack, community-table seating, and large mirrors framed with wood rescued from a Montana barn. Her husband, Mark, owned a restaurant in his native South Africa, making him the perfect complement to the eatery's other half. The couple have established Chianti Cucina as a place to explore innovative Italian fare and housemade recipes every day of the week.
The architects at Red Boy Pizza hand-build each pie from the ground up, starting with a sourdough crust. From there, they add a saucy scaffolding made from hand-picked California tomatoes, with windows and portals of toppings ranging from salami or clams to french brie cheese. Browse the menu to decide between a specialty 'za or create your own. For patrons who don't care for pizza, or circles, Red Boy Pizza hosts a bevy of other foodstuffs including pasta, made-to-order salads, sandwiches, and specialty dishes.
Translated from Italian, tavola means table, a place for friends and family to congregate around wine and simple, handcrafted food. Such is the inspiration behind Tavola Italian Kitchen, where chefs employ techniques steeped in Italian tradition to prepare dishes comprised of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Along with the food, the restaurateurs behind Tavola rely on their network of purveyors to gather flowers, ceramics, and decor rather than bartering with their secret recipes for stuff at garage sales.
Novato Café’s chef Marx Passos mans steaming pots and pans to forge a dinner menu of time-tested plates crowned with colorful sprays of fresh veggies. At the sound of the dinner bell, creamy avocado-and-bacon-cloaked cheeseburgers ($12) drive up napkin demand, and the Boston clam chowder ($6; available Fridays and Saturdays) fits swimmingly alongside a baby spinach salad, decorated with tomatoes, red onions, black olives, and cucumbers and blanketed in choice of dressing ($6 for small; $9 for large). Plates piled high with thin cuts of tenderized pan-fried steak ($9) and fillets of sautéed salmon ($12) swirl through the air from the kitchen to the table, providing the perfect opportunity to chow down and film a UFO hoax in the same night.
Tomatina's chefs rotate their menu three times a year to include the freshest local and seasonal ingredients. Diners can size up appetites with starters such as parmesan-crusted polenta ($6.75) before sinking teeth into more substantial fare on the extensive menu. The culinary wizards ensure freshness and quality by making sauces and dough from scratch and interviewing every tomato before baking an array of specialty pies, including the thin-crusted Pizza Vineyard with oven-roasted seedless red grapes, baby arugula, and gorgonzola ($17 for a large). Similarly, the restaurant's signature piadine dishes cover warm flatbread with cool salads and a bevy of toppings including steak ($10.95), salmon ($11.50), and hummus ($9.95), all of which can be easily imbibed via fork or face-planting.
The San Francisco Chronicle highlighted Gaspare's Pizzeria Ristorante Bar in its "Pizza of the Week" feature in 2008, in part due to the cooks who "work the dough like artists" to create the 27 different pies. Owned and operated by Gaspare, Daniel, and Robin Indelicato since 1985, the flagship San Francisco location showcases a vintage flair. The dining room sports murals of Bay Area scenes and jukeboxes blasting Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin tunes. There’s even a ceiling draped with grapevines and bottles of chianti, which the servers trained to think they are bats. A second location opened in San Rafael in 2007. For his menu of Italian cuisine, Gaspare draws on his upbringing in Siculiana, Sicily, baking pans of bubbling lasagna alongside pizzas such as the feta-flecked mediterranean special. To round out meals, Robin Indelicato bakes her signature New York–style cheesecake and Italian-style tiramisu, which patrons may pair with espresso or a glass of imported Italian wine.
In the kitchen of Mauro's Pizza & Pasta, cooks make yeast-leavened dough by hand using organic flour as other cooks slow-cook tomato sauce with locally grown organic vegetables and herbs. Handcrafted signature pizzas such as the Genovese sport artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto, and custom pies are available in diverse combinations. For takeout, daily entree specials include artichoke lasagna with tomato-cream sauce and handmade ravioli pouches stuffed with butternut squash and walnut-sage brown butter—each designed to fill family dinner tables or family neck-mounted trays if tables have already been eaten.