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.
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.
From the outside, Zio Fraedo's looks like a stately Italian villa. Inside, the atmosphere is just as elegant, but instead of Dean Martin's voice, you might hear the groovy sounds of live Motown music reverberating from the walls. The dynamic live entertainment, which might include cabaret shows, dancing, and live music, is a big draw. The menu is too, featuring Italian entrees from prawns risotto to veal parmesan, as well as an extensive wine list that plays "That's Amore" when you open it. There's also ample parking, allowing people to easily stop in for the continental and Italian dishes and local or national performers under the direction of Top Shelf Entertainment.
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).
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.
As the name coyly suggests, East Coast Pizza provides broad, foldable slices of New York–style pizza in a simple, down-home setting. All food is made fresh to order in-house, either baked in ovens or fired up on the grill. Custom-tailor your own pizza, or order one of the prix-fixe menu options such as the contra costa ($10.75–$23.50), decked out in whole-milk mozzarella and tomato sauce with sausage, pesto, and artichoke hearts. The margherita ($10.75–$23.50) is topped with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and tomatoes (pizza sauce optional). If you're craving something more three-dimensional, try the classic chicken-parmigiana sub ($9.95), or a grilled California cheeseburger ($8.95) layered with bacon, fresh avocado, and pepper-jack cheese. The bar portion of the bar and grill offers a selection of beers on tap; pick up a domestic pitcher for $12 and split it among friends or Morlocks while enjoying a sporting game on the overhead televisions.