"California-style or Italian restaurants in the Fremont/Milpitas area?"
For years, two independent restaurants in Fremont widely thought to be the best there fit those descriptions exactly. The California-style place was Pearl's Cafe, unfortunately defunct. Il Porcino is the other one, already mentioned. Haven't been there for a while but it was indeed solid.
Related discussion here not long ago:
Oh man, I sooo miss Pearl's. I used to go there at least once a week with my parents. Our favorite waitress was a girl I went to grade school with (she was a few years older), and she usually hooked us up with a slice of their nutty chocolate torte. It tasted like everything I love about a Heath bar, but better. Pearl's introduced me to some of my favorite foods--baked brie, risotto, frisee salad with runny egg, carpaccio, sea salt and roasted garlic on my bread...wow. They had some rockin' artichokes and cedar-plank salmon, too.
The space has been taken over by a vaguely upscale Mexican joint, but my parents and I prefer La Casita. It's homestyle, and there's no need for fancy Mexican food when I'm in town visiting now. After all, I live in LA.
It's been several years since my last visit, but I always enjoyed Il Porcino for Italian in Fremont when I lived there.
Ristorante Il Porcino, (510)791-7383
3339 Walnut Ave.
There are a large number of good restaurants in the greater Fremont area, but Cal-cuisine is notably absent AFAIK.
I've heard that Massimos is pretty good. Haven't been myself though. Would love to hear your thoughts if you go.
Up the freeway a couple of miles is Spice Route in Milpitas. New place, great food. I've been meaning to go back. They serve lots of seafood. You could call it Cal Cuisine with Asian influences... but that might be a stretch.
400 Valley Way, Milpitas (408)262-1700
re: Fussy Foodie
Oh, no. Please don't go to Massimo's. I've given that restaurant five chances, and have been disappointed each time. Steak tends to be tough, even at medium-rare. Veggies, overcooked. It just goes downhill from there. Good bread, though.
If you're only looking for Italian, try Strizzi's. Table service is pretty good, but don't eat at the counter. Every time we try that, my dad just ends up getting mad at the server. The bread is fine, the lasagna is rich and filling, and the linguine is consistently tasty. And the wine selection, though rather tame, has some solid choices.
Barrio Fiesta in Milpitas is pretty good if you're in the mood for Filipino food and looking for an actual table service restaurant instead of Goldilock's. And yes, not Italian or Californian, but a good backup for a slightly adventurous dinner.
La Casita in Fremont is good, solid Mexican-American homestyle. No big surprises on the menu, but I am a HUGE fan of their chicken-rice-tomato soup. And their albondigas. My mom usually orders the chile verde, and my dad seems to like the burritos. I know, again not what you were looking for, but just in case Strizzi's fails you...
2740 Mowry Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
1790 Milmont Dr
Milpitas, CA 95035
41240 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538
Enjoy your stay! And be nice to my hometown... =)