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Dec 16, 2007 06:13 PM

Return to Rosso Pizzeria (Santa Rosa)

Since our lunch chowdown here last month ( ), I’ve had the chance to return to Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar twice now. It does have some inconsistencies in how the crust turns out, but all in all, I am still quite high on this place for flavor, local ingredients, and value.

Two weeks ago I pulled into the parking lot just before 6:00 PM, and it was nearly full. Silly me, thinking this was early enough on a Sunday to avoid the crowds. Surprisingly, only two of the parties inside included children, guess this isn’t just family hour. By myself, I was able to slide in at the bar, so here’s my vantage point from a bar stool.

Service was swifter at the bar with one of the partners overseeing beverage service and keeping an eye on the area, plus a server. A runner brought out my Rosso Caesar piadina ($8.5) swiftly though I’ll say it was weird to be served from behind when seated at the bar.

Having grown up in lettuce country and mindful of “snarkygirl’s” comments about rusty Romaine, I did a thorough visual inspection of the salad topping and didn’t find the same fault this time. Dressed heavily with creamy lemon anchovy dressing, the greens were topped with a fillet of anchovy and a dab of garlic paste spiked with Calabrian chile. Glad I looked at the contents before folding it up, as the salad had a whole bunch of Gorgonzola mixed it. I’m a blue cheese lover, but someone else might not like to be surprised this way. The piadina description on the menu doesn’t mention the Gorgonzola; it’s only cited in the insalata menu entry. I liked the spicy garlic paste, but I’m not sure that it complemented the Caesar flavors.

Unlike the flaky and pliable crust for the Mediterranean piadina we shared at the chowdown, this one was cooked a little longer and harder to fold. Also, as it cooled down, it got chewier and finally quite tough. I left a good bit of the crust on the plate. The combination of rich Caesar dressing with sweet Gorgonzola is totally over the top and not something I’d probably order again. But it would be ideal for anyone who finds the flavors here too muted.

Then yesterday I had a chance to join a pair of visiting chowhounds for a late lunch here. I’d had a lazy Saturday, not eating anything before heading over here, so I was inclined to over order a bit.

We started with the Meatballs in marinara ($9), three rotund orbs bathed in tomato sauce and enriched with a shot of olive oil. As wonderful and homey as kare raisu described earlier.

Then a pizzetta ($3) to go with the Pesce spread ($3). The pesce in this case was a rather sweet smoked trout that’s blended with marscapone and lemon. The aromatic and tart lemon notes balanced the richness of the soft cheese and the sweet smoking.

An order of the burrata (or more accurately burricotti or burricotta for the fresh ricotta filled mozzarella balls) with prosciutto di Parma ($9.5) was a must. This was actually better than my first visit, the fresh mozz was even silkier and more cloud-like.

For our pizzas, we picked the Funghi ($12.5) and the Inter-Milan ($12.5), and I held out for the Med piadina ($9) again. Wary of over-fired piadina crust, I emphasized to our server that I wanted it to be pliable. This time I felt it was a bit underdone or maybe cooked at too low of a temperature as it didn’t develop the flakey/bubbly texture that makes this thin crust so special. However, it was as delicious as before and a welcome bit of greenery on the table among the abundance of carbs and dairy.

Hard to pick a favorite between the Funghi or Inter-Milan. I’ll just say that these two beat out any of the others I’ve tried here so far. The mushroom pizza had a richness, complexity and depth of flavor that was so satisfying in a primal sense, and I loved the fragrance of the scatter of fresh thyme. The crust on this one was just a little bit chewier than I’d like. The crust on the Inter-Milan hit that perfect charred and puffy edge with a more tender but not wet center. Maybe I have to give this one the edge for that texture and how well the toppings melded seamlessly into the crust. I loved the savory alliums, a combination of leeks, scallions, and garlic, each contributing a different scent and sweetness. The proportions of cheese and pancetta were spot-on for me.

Clockwise from upper left: Funghi pizza, Inter-Milan pizza, and Mediterranean piadina -

A bottle of 2001 David Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Estate Zinfandel that I’d brought along was our smooth and fruity quaff with our meal. Before we knew it, we’d had a leisurely two hours visiting and eating in our cozy booth across from the wine bar, and it was 4:00PM. At this quiet time we took a walk around the perimeter to admire the posters for our local purveyors. On the way out, we helped ourselves to the Italian hard candies, now in an even bigger display, no doubt to quell some of the criticism for not offering dessert here.

Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar
53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA

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  1. Glad to see you're a David Coffaro fan, too, Melanie. Did you first come upon him when he was a stallholder at Plaza Farms?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cmvan

      My Coffaro fandom goes back much further than that. His first commercial vintage was 1994. I tried the 94 Zinfandel and the Estate Cuvee wines at the Harvest Fair, posted about it on the Compuserve wine forum, and then headed over the winery to try to meet the winemaker. Turned out that he was looking for me too, as one of the first to write about his wines. Lots of fun through the years watching the winery grow and thrive, e.g., the infamous Pinot Noir experiment, New Year's eve parties with the sound turned UP, creation of the ZPC cuvee, and much, much more. We're very good friends, so I don't post opinions about the wines here anymore.

    2. It was a nice to meet up with Melanie. Thank you for bringing the David Coffaro Dry Creek Zin, I commented on how much I liked it all weekend the smooth with slight fruit went perfectly with semi rustic flavors.

      What I liked about this place is they are not over complicating simple, fresh foods nor is the interior over coiffed for a place like this. This should not be so hard and so many miss the boat. I appreciate partnering with local producers; this is why the freshness stands out. There is no reason that food like this should not be sustainable, we are so lucky to live in an area where you can get all this great organic food. I think the owners did a good job of taking their vision and keeping it simple, hope they can sustain that.

      I think Melanie described everything very well. I liked the Funghi pizza best, the fresh fontana cheese, mushrooms and fresh thyme made this simply delicious and fragrant.
      Inter-Milan pizza piadine' flat bread with a green salad or could be viewed as a salad wrapped in soft lavash- the greens were extremely fresh they really came through, the dough did not over power I was quit happy with this and I personally like this style.
      Overall this style of pizza needs to be eaten right away to really enjoy all the flavors while the crust remains hot.
      Burricotti was a very nice touch, soft billows of heaven, nice quality olive oil drizzled over that did not over power.
      The Pesce- trout spread was yummy in texture and the lemon was there but remains subtle. This to me would be ideal over bagels on a Sunday morning.

      I think the portions were a good size for three good eaters sharing. I look forward to returning.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Lori SF

        Hi! Great write-up Melanie. I rode my bike from San Francisco to Petaluma before this late lunch, and for much of the chilly, windy and hilly ride I was thinking about how good a hot pizza would be at the finish line. This place did not disappoint. Everything was delicious and fresh, and I have to agree that the funghi pie was my favorite too - I could have easily eaten the whole thing and then some. The "burricotta" was also delicious, pure creamy goodness with a bit of salt and fragrant olive oil. We heard this place gets super busy but hitting it at an "off" hour like we did (around 2 pm) worked out great - service was smooth and helpful, without pressure to turn the table, and the food arrived quickly and in our requested sequence. And fyi, lunch for three was about $75 before tip, including a $10 corkage for the Coffaro. Given the amount and quality of what we ate, we felt it was very reasonable.

        1. re: Lori SF

          With Christmas behind me, I'm finally getting back to this thread. You've hit on exactly why I like this place --- simple surroundings, fresh local food at a good price. I remember your first taste reaction to the piadina -- "I could eat this every day." Great to chow with you two!

        2. I really liked Rosso when I just happened upon it a few weeks back for a client lunch. We shared the Funghi and the Beppo. I thought the Funghi was one of the best pizzas around, with fantastic crust. The Beppo didn't fare quite as well - I found the tomato sauce to be oddly spiced and the crust was a little more soggy. Also shared a great salad (can't remember the same) with carmelized onions and roasted fennel. Ended with espresso - not perfect, but getting there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Dive

            Glad you found it. The salad with the roasted onions and pickled shaved fennel is called Mista, $7.

            We may be on to something . . . other than the simple Margherita, the red sauce base pizzas don't seem to be faring to well. The crust doesn't seem to suit them or maybe more tweaking to get the right firing time and thickness is needed.


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