Occupation: Shipping Container Sales Director
Favorite Restaurant: Della Santina's Trattoria
Reviewed Della Santina's Trattoria: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I invited a dear friend of mine to join me for dinner at Della Santina, a favorite restaurant of mine for at least 10 years. When I phoned for a reservation the owner, Robert, said, "Of course, no problem." As I dine here very often, he will always make room for me, even on a busy evening. We were ushered to our table immediately and although every table was eventually filled, it wasn’t too noisy as the tables are not on top of each other.
The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, and tonight just the outdoor portion was open for dinner. The outside is charming with lots of little white lights, fountains and flowers, and overhead heating to keep you warm on a cool evening. It’s especially terrific on a warm summer day.
Our waiter was Louis, a charming fellow, and he didn’t rush us at all and took clues from us when we were ready to order. We had a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc (Shug), which was $9.50 a glass, but well worth it. The wine list has both California and Italian Wines, and if you're looking for something more affordable, you should order the Italian Wines, but as I’m not as familiar with them, I always tend to order the local wines.
We started with a small antipasto, which seemed more than sufficient for two. In addition, they surprised us with a cold pork salad in a delicious lemon caper sauce (on the house). We then had two entrees. Mine was the Prawns Dore in a very light batter that comes with broccoli -- undercooked, as it should be -- and delicious roasted potatoes. I shared this with Lonnie, and she said that she now had a new favorite dish. It really is scrumptious. She had the pasta -- a tube penne pasta with sausage in a tomato sauce -- and there were almost too many sausages, although most people wouldn’t complain about that as it was very tasty.
We ended our meal with coffee (excellent) and the chocolate torte; there wasn’t a crumb left on our plate. They are famous for their tiramisu, but as I usually order this, I decided to try something different and we loved it!
Occupation: Web Product Marketer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pagolac: Mom's Vietnamese Kitchen
Reviewed Della Santina's Trattoria: Saturday, April 3, 2010
The rolling vineyards along Highway 121 to Sonoma are always a treat to soak in on a wine country excursion, and Della Santina turned out to be a charming and worthwhile destination for the hour-plus drive from my home in San Francisco. Just a block off the main city square, the restaurant looks like someone’s home with the front parlor done up as a dining room. It was abuzz with activity the Saturday evening we arrived, mostly with large convivial family parties obviously having a great time. What struck me first and foremost about Della Santina is the welcome feeling they appear to give every customer. Many of them, the manager and servers knew by name. I felt like they should have all yelled "Norm!" when I entered with my partner. His name is not Cliff.
We were seated next to a window at a really small table for two, and my one preference would have been for a quieter dining space. It was only later that I noticed Della Santina is separated into compartments like a commercial airline. In the back is a more spacious area that provides a more conversational atmosphere with softer lighting. I finally realized we were sitting in coach and waiting for someone to tell us to put our tray tables in the upright position. Anyway, that little discovery doesn’t alter my opinion of the food. It was very hearty, satisfying Italian fare that tasted very home-style with none of the urban pretense of more expensive eateries.
We started with the Antipasto Misto, which was a nice assortment of prosciutto, salame, pancetta and kalamata olives. I was struck by the freshness of the meats since I must be used to the packaged flavor of antipasto served at more typical trattorias. My partner tried a bowl of the Tortellini in Brodo, which offered quite a few of those hand-rolled tortellinis in a chicken broth, which was a bit on the non-descript side. My partner and I actually have some insight on how much effort this soup is since we just learned how to make it from scratch in Bologna, Italy, a few months back.
Our entrees were next, and the portions were quite generous. I ordered the pappardelle all’ Antra, which was obviously made with homemade pasta and mixed with a tasty duck ragu. The texture was a tad too wet for my taste since I prefer noodles that are a bit more al dente, especially when they need to provide the backbone for the ragu. My partner went for the bistecca alla Fiorentina, which was a carnivore’s delight. It was a grilled, three-week-aged Porterhouse steak, quite big and tender, and accompanied by some sautéed vegetables and roasted baby potatoes. The quality of the meat was frankly better than most of the steakhouses in San Francisco.
Even though we were pretty sated at this point, we knew we had to try the desserts, which represented the high and low points of the entire meal. The panna cotta was disappointing with the mixture of Italian pastry rum and cherries yielding a flavor close to children’s cough medicine. On the other hand, the tiramisu was sensational with three liqueurs complementing the espresso nicely, and the texture of the ladyfingers just soft enough without being too soggy.
To accompany our feast, we shared a bottle of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, a sparkling wine that heightened the various flavors running through our respective palates. It was served in a nice silver bucket that unfortunately took up a huge part of our table, but the waiter compensated with a free glass of Muscat to finish off our desserts.
Our window did afford us a view of the closed patio, which we concluded must be quite nice during the spring and summer months. As we were about to roll ourselves out of the place, we decided that Della Santina was definitely worth a return visit when we are in the wine country again, although we’ll "pay" for the upgrade to first-class and ask for a table in the back.
Occupation: Product Designer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Zazie
Reviewed Della Santina's Trattoria: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Della Santina’s is located in Sonoma, right off of the square. Surprisingly, we pulled up and found parking right in front of the restaurant, which was a bit unusual for a weekend in Sonoma. Luckily for us, the inclement weather may have scared off some of the tourists that usually flock to this area.
We were seated very promptly inside. Upon a trip to the bathroom, I could see that the back patio would have been relaxing on a nicer day. After sitting down and looking over the menu, I noticed that Mexican pop music was playing in the background. This struck me as a very unauthentic music choice in an Italian restaurant. It was actually distracting, and obvious that the music was not chosen with customers in mind.
Besides the music, the overall atmosphere was quaint. The waiter was very attentive and was ready to take our order within ten minutes of looking over the menu. We started out with a tomato and mozzarella salad, as well as minestrone soup. Each of these starters were passable. I felt that I could have purchased the exact same salad at the Whole Foods salad bar down the street. The minestrone soup was tasty, but did not knock my socks off. I liked that it was a bit thicker than most minestrone soups, and was a good way to warm up on a cold day.
For my main course, I ordered spinach ravioli with mushroom sauce. My husband ordered a pappardelle pasta with a duck ragout. I am sorry to say that both of these dishes were disappointing. The main reason is that the sauces and ingredients simply did not taste fresh. In addition, there was nothing new or creative about the dishes. These were just basic pasta dishes that could have been purchased at any Italian restaurant. So after trying my main course, I was beginning to wonder why we had driven one-and-a-half hours to go to THIS restaurant, when amazing dining experiences, such as The Girls and The Fig, were within steps of where we sat.
We gave Della Santina’s one last chance by ordering dessert. I ordered the chocolate mousse cake, and my husband ordered the lemon tart. As an avid chocolate lover and lemon dessert lover (respectively), we were under-whelmed by these desserts. Both came drenched in some sort of artificially flavored sauce with candied cherries. Also, the crust on the lemon tart was not tasty. It was not flaky or buttery, but rather dry and clumpy. The lemon curd was too yellow in color, and had an aftertaste of pure egg.
I would also like to note that while the waiters were nice and very prompt/attentive, they did not wipe the tables after our meal. So, while eating dessert, we were staring at dabs of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and water that had splashed out of the glasses when being filled. These sort of overlooked details take away from the overall dining experience.
I am wondering if I caught Della Santina’s on a bad day. However, my expectations for a restaurant in Sonoma are very high. All in all, if I am going to drive one-and-a-half hours to Sonoma -- one of the best places for food in this country, if not the world -- I am looking for an unparalleled dining experience. After trying Della Santina’s, I feel that the food is passable. However, there are so many far better choices in Sonoma in terms of food quality, atmosphere, and authenticity.