Chowdown Report: Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Santa Rosa
Today five North Bay chowhounds gathered for lunch at the newish Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar. The consensus opinon: two thumbs up!
We ordered in stages so that our pizze would be each be fresh and hot. Even though the place was very busy during lunch hour, our server and the cooks handled this quite well.
In order of service, we tried
1st round -
Margherita pizza, $10
Risotto with hunter's style rabbit and butternut squash in a red wine glaze, $18
House made "burrata" and Parma prosciutto, $9.50
Fritto misto, $8.50
2nd round -
Nonna's anchovy spread, $3
3rd round -
Uvo pizza, $13
Point Reyes pizza, $11
4th round -
Mediterranean piadina, $9
Per the receipt, our check was opened at 12:12 pm and we closed the bill at 1:23pm, so you can get in and out of here in less than an hour if you order less than we did.
The wine list has local and imported wines. They're identified as "here" and "there", and also designated as organic, sustainable, or biodynamic. Twenty-two selections are available by the 6 oz. glass, 250ml or 500ml. Most bottle prices are under $35 and only a few cost more than $45. The chalkboard listed some cellared wines if you want something with more age on it. Corkage is $10 and donated to the Santa Rosa United Soccer Scholarship fund. We tried the 2005 Di Majo Norante "San Giorgio" Sangiovese,, Molise for $20/bottle.
Our bill with one espresso (with the option of agave nectar sweetener), one Arnold Palmer, all the above, plus tax and tip came to $140 for the five of us. So, 'hounds, please tell us about your favorites.
Here are some snapshots -
(suggestion: select slideshow, then click on the lower edge of the slide to see the captions).
Edited to add: I felt like i had a serious case of garlic breath once we were done. No one was happier to find out that Perugina Glacia mints are available at the cashier!
Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar
53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA
I am one thumbs up... one neutral...
Great: Med Piadina (loved the slight sweetness from the eggplant & the crunch of the greens) & the Anchovy paste (even before we received the pizzetta I gave it a try and it was delicious pungent & bold but without the metallic taste of some anchovies)
Almost Great: Pt. Reyes Pizza.... I would have liked a higher quantity of bleu cheese & maybe some roasted shallots (Bleu cheese is one of my favorite foods ever... so I really like it in generous quantities)
Good: Margherita, Burrata, Prossciutto all were fine but skimpy on flavor.
Underwhelming: Fritto Misto & Uvo Pizza (my first slice had burnt garlic... the second kind of just tasted like hollandaise sauce to me... rich, succulent but no distinctive flavors whatsoever).
This place is good... but if I baseline it against CPK (chowhounds shudder).... the crust & general pizza flavor balance is not a winner for me (the Eggplant piadina being & anchovy paste being the exceptions).
FWIW... the espresso was very, very good. Nice balanced Ecco beans + clean, new machines = not the crappy bitterness put out by Starbucks & Peets these days.
You and your little camera take great pictures, Melanie.
The risotto tasted creamy and rich and hearty at the same time-- high-level comfort food. The fritto misto was the only really disappointing dish, to me. Not enough flavor to be worth the calories.
Overall, I'm very happy to know about this place. They have a good kids' menu too.
Two thumbs neutral to east by southeast from the husband and me. Husband arrived at 6 pm to put his name on the hour long waiting list. I joined him at 7 and we waited another 20 mins for a table. No one offered to take a drink order while we waited.
We were seated at a very comfortable booth. Our server arrived promptly and described the wine-by-the-glass specials. Husband expressed a preference for a white citrusy wine. Our server selected a white Burgandy for him. I ordered Moretti on tap. Things started looking up. We decided to share the burrata, the grilled artichoke, a Caesar salad, and to go our own ways for pizza. Our server came with our drinks and took our order. Husband's wine was unpleasant. At that point our server offered to send someone over who might be able to help out better. A nice Spanish white arrived, and the white Burgandy was disapparated.
The burrata was heavenly. Like a fresh waterfall in the mouth, so clean and fresh. You can't beat it. The artichoke was very good. (We have a thing for grilled artichokes.) The plates and silverware were cleared and we were looking forward to the next course.
Then we started to head east by southeast. Expecting to be delivered next of a Caesar salad, we were surprised when our pizza's arrived, brought by a woman who was not our server and who did not ask if we wanted anything else (like drink refills). I had the Uvo. Husband had the Moto Guzzi. Neither of us had silverware. That's awkward when your 'za is parked on top of one of those tomato cage-things (you know what I mean, that thing) and it has a poached egg on it. Alas, the crust was not...special. It was your average American crust. Uber-chewy. I was hoping for your average Milanese crust, but it was not to be. The garlic slices were unpleasant, and I love garlic. It seemed raw. Would have been better if the garlic had been carmelized or some such. Husband's toppings were to his liking, sweet Italian sausage, carmelized onions and chard, but he agreed that the crust was a disappointment.
After too long a time, our server re-appeared to check on how we were doing, and "took one for the team" as he put it, over the lack of silverware. He had also forgotten about the Caesar, and quickly brought one to us. Unfortunately, the pieces of romaine with the spines had become brown where the rest of the leaf had been torn away. For some reason, I found this to be very upsetting. Perhaps because it cost $8.50 and one should have fresh lettuce at that price. Perhaps it was just the visual. The server informed us he would comp us for the salad, since he had forgotten it. That was nice.
I would not go back for the pizza, but will probably go back, no rush, to try other appetizers or specials.
Sigh. I was really hoping for something new, fun, and great. This isn't it.
A word of clarification about the pizza crust. IMHO, it is typical American in that it is overly chewy inside. It's not light enough for my taste, as if the dough is too elastic. However, the outside of the crust is totally not typical. It's very good. The outer layer is very thin and crunchy, perfectly cooked.
Great to be invited to a chowdown with one hour's notice. No. I mean it. Sometimes it is easier to say 'yes' to an unplanned event then to coordinate schedules for a week from Tuesday. Thanks, Melanie, for being so spontaneous, and for including me.
I enjoyed the variety of crusty items, especially the padini, which was a standout for me. The combination of the fresh crisp lettuces, the red peppers, the sumptuous eggplant spread and the crackly crust was a treat.
Anchovies are a plus, wherever they appear, and the small dish of filets bathed in garlic, parsley (I think) and excellent olive oil was delicious-especially once we were guided to an order of pizzetta for carrying these little fishies to our mouths. Good strong fresh flavors.
The fritta mista was fried very well, but, aside from the excellent aioli, was pretty bland. I should have added some salt, perhaps. Burrata and Prosciutto were a bit too subtle for me, though the texture was smooth and soothing.
I know that Italian style pizza is not as dramatic as American pies, and these were no exception. I thought the blue cheese and onion pizza was tasty, but it suffered a bit from a certain flabbiness to the crust. I really liked the risotto. The gaminess and good texture of the rabbit was satisfying, and the rice itself was done to my liking. I hope that they keep some form of risotto on their menu.
Two things I especially liked about the restaurant: the wine list is pretty far reaching, with a plethora of wineries represented which were completely unfamiliar to me. This is a good thing. The prices were extremely reasonable, and I can tell that upon my return I will spend an inordinate amount of time figuring which wine to order. The other thing I noted was the children's menu, which seems quite varied, including one item at the bottom, listed at 'Market Price'--WHATEVER YOU WANT is what it is called. Just the thing for fussy eaters. All in all, lunch was perfectly enjoyable, and a return visit is called for.