Donato Enoteca, Redwood City
Tonight, my husband Marc and I dined at Executive Chef Donato Scotti's new place at 1041 Middlefield Rd. in Redwood City. The restaurant opens to the public on Monday, June 22nd. Appetizer, pasta, main and dessert (enough food for 2 hungry people) ran about $50 without wine. Service was friendly and consistent.
There is an open kitchen, and the atmosphere strikes a good balance between "night out" and elegant farmhouse, with paper-topped tablecloths and exposed beams.
We were greeted with some sliced ciabatta and a flavorful dip.
To start, we tried the bruschetta di cinghiale, which featured hand-pulled, braised wild boar, onion, and a bite of Chianti vinegar over thin, toasted ciabatta slices. The meat definitely took center stage, and it was flavorful and abundant.
After some deliberation, we chose a second course of ravioli di fave, This was probably our favorite of the night - light, green-tasting and flavorful. The ravioli was filled with a mixture of fava beans and ricotta, topped with fresh fava beans and peeled cherry tomatoes, and topped with some arugala pesto which was also drizzled on the frisse that accompanied the dish.
For a main, we shared the branzino ai ferri, which has been a favorite of ours at La Strada in Palo Alto. The Seabass was served whole and grilled perfectly, accompanied by aromatic grilled fennel and slightly charred (in a good way) tomatoes.
We ordered two contorni with the fish - broccoli rabe, which was tossed in a sauce flavored with anchovies and Pecorino cheese. I was lucky to grab a bite of this because before Marc completely devoured it. The second was bianchi di spagna - white beans with guanciale and rosemary. This was good, though I would have liked them finished in the pizza oven with a bit more guanciale.
For dessert, we had a shortcake with grilled peaches and basil cream, drizzled with balsamic vinegar to counter-balance the sweetness. The shortcake was crunchy and a nice contrast to the smooth basil cream.
Since we were sitting overlooking the kitchen, we noticed a couple of dishes we'd like to try next time -- the carciofi fritti (lightly fried baby artichokes) and costoletta alla Milanese (veal chop) looked wonderful.
DeeGlaze, thanks again for leading off here. My brother and I had dinner at Donato on Monday, one week after the opening. I said we’d walk by and see if Chef Donato could be seen in the kitchen or we’d eat somewhere else. He was very much in action and easily visible from the sidewalk as in command of the open kitchen. A bandstand was set up around the corner and many of the restaurants along the main drag had set up tables outside for the performance. Yet, Donato Enoteca was pretty busy too for a new place especially for the beginning of the week.
It was a warm evening and a good opportunity to dine out on the patio. The hostess initially led us to a two-top, however, I explained to her that the little café table was too cramped for all the food we were planning to order! Two place settings and a pizza pan stand probably wouldn’t fit. As it was, when our three antipasti plates were served, they had to be overlapped to squeeze onto the round table meant for four. William could pick up a weak wi-fi signal from the public library across the street on his iPhone.
I’d been to this site before when it was d’Asaro. The long narrow space has been completely rearranged with casual tables and the open kitchen near the entrance. Then down the ramp into the wine bar and more formal dining area lined with wine racks towards the back. There’s also a private dining room at the far end, which I didn’t get to see because there was an event in progress. The wine room’s licensed premise also spills onto the patio with an outdoor lounge outfitted with some couches and comfortable chairs facing City Hall. Unlike the chef’s former restaurant, La Strada, this feels more like a piece of Italy, rather than a California restaurant.
The service, like the décor, was somewhat more Continental and less casual than La Strada. There were swarms of staff on Monday with two or more people coming to the table for every transaction and William surmised that this was all hands on deck for training. The service staff appears to be mature and experienced in this biz even if there are some kinks to be worked out for this new operation. I understand that the GM also came from La Strada to join the chef here. The events manager, formerly of Greens, was working the floor, visiting each table for feedback. The management team also includes a wine director.
The menu pricing seems to take the economic downturn into account and is quite reasonable. When I saw the $12 to $15 range for pastas, I thought they’d be primi size, but they are indeed big enough to share or serve as an entrée. Pizzas from the wood-fired oven are $10 and $11, and seafood and meat courses are $16 to $25, with four of the six choices under $20. Open for lunch and dinner daily, Donato would be on my lunch rotation if I worked nearby.
Last but not least, we enjoyed the food, maybe more than La Strada thought it’s too early to tell. The bi-lingual menu reads with more authenticity and covers more ground than the chef’s own Bergamo (Lombardia) roots. I loved the house-baked ciabatta for the chewy moist crumb, almost as good as Scopa’s in Healdsburg. William though the crust was too hard. The accompanying spread made with green Sicilian olives and fresh aromatic herbs was a delicious start.
For a wider range of tastes, we skipped the entrees. Here’s what we ordered:
Bruschetta di Cinghiale, $8 – The thin ciabatta slices were beautifully grilled. No skimping on the wild boar, flavor or quantity-wise, and the delicately dressed frisee garnish added a light counterpoint.
Handpulled braised wild boar, onion, Chianti vinegar on grilled ciabatta.
Carciofi fritti alla menta e prosecco, $7 – Meant to be completely edible, the outer leaves fried brown were tough rather than crisped. Once removed, the artichokes went wonderfully with the emulsion of basil, mint, olive oil and Prosecco vinegar.
Lightly fried baby artichokes with Prosecco vinegar and mint sauce.
Prosciutto e pinzin, $9 – The prosciutto was lovely, but neither of us could get into the pinzin, little fried pieces of yeasty dough about the size of a large raviolo. Nothing really tied the two together. We each ate one portion with the pinzin, and then left the rest of them behind. The giardiniera accompanying the board was great, very fresh tasting with crunchy colorful vegetables.
Traditional Emilia-Romagna dumplings with 18 month aged prosciutto
Pizza Margherita, $10 – The pizza was too blonde and underbaked with a soggy center. After a first bite, I wanted to send it back, but William said, “No, it tastes really good, I want to eat it.” The crushed tomatoes tasted sweeter and riper than the pizza I’d had a few days earlier at Pizzeria Delfina, and the crust was thinner. With a bit of dried oregano in addition to fresh basil, the Margherita here has a bit more flavor. The fresh mozzarella melded beautifully into the tomato sauce, some of the tastiest bites being the margins where cheese meets tomato with the milky richness transferring a creamy flavor and texture to the sauce. I asked our server if blonde was SOP here, and he said to ask for it charred next time.
Tomato, basil, oregano and fresh mozzarella cheese.
Risotto Nero, $15 – The risotto made with squid ink was the favorite for both of us. Brought to the table covered with a white porcelain domed lid, a woman at the next table gasped when the cover came off, presumably at the startling contrast of the ebony black rice against the stark whiteness of the plate. The rice was reasonably firm, a bit gummy in places, yet ultra-delicious infused with the flavor of the sea. Fresh squid, including chopped up pieces of tentacles, were blended into the rice.. The risotto seemed oversalted, even by Italian standards, I would say. However, when combined with some of the tart tomato, a few drops of the olive oil drizzled around the edge, and a portion of the perfectly roasted scallops, everything in that mouthful came into harmony and exacting balance. The portion was also quite generous, mounded high, and was larger than it appears in the photo.
Squid ink, Nova scallops, cuttlefish & Marche DOP extra virgin olive oil.
Bianchi di Spagna, $4 – The contorno of big white beans with crispy bits of guanciale rated high with us too. Fragrant with garlic and rosemary, the beans were creamy and then seemed to be browned at high heat crisping and splitting the skins. The flavor of the cured meat seeped deep into the tasty beans. The guanciale was cut into such tiny pieces and so well-rendered, it wasn’t possible to tell if this was indeed the cheeks. But nevertheless, a lot of flavor in this side dish and again, a large portion for the price.
Beans wtih guanciale and rosemary
Panna cotta with strawberry compote, $8 – This was pretty, but the panna cotta was too stiff. Maybe it had to be for the parfait presentation. The strawberries were good, but not sufficient.
Housemade vanilla gelato and mango sorbeto, $7 – Three gelati and three sorbetti flavors are available each day. The mango sorbetto was rather faint, and since, I’d ordered limoncello, not terribly satisfying. The vanilla, however, was quite good in the richly eggy, custard-style.
Would you believe that I neglected to look at the wine list?!?
re: Melanie Wong
We went a couple days ago and found the good pretty good, some notes:
Spaghetti Con Cipollotti Gamberoni ($14) Spring onion, prawns, Trebbiano wine; roasted garlic “mollica” had tasty home made, hand made noodles in a garlicy sauce that was on the zesty side. Five good sized prawns pre cut.
Pizza Margherita ($10) Tomato, basil, oregano & fresh mozzarella cheese was excellent. Nice very thin crust, not soggy, crispy edges, flavorful cheese.
Tagliata DI Agnello ($19) Marinated grilled & sliced Colorado lamb top round, “aceto balsamico” was a nice meaty dish full of high quality lamb cooked to a rare, making it a little chewy. Not gamey. Included a pretty healthy polenta made with buckwheat and some veggies underneath. If you do not like rare, let them know.
Biete E Fave ($7) Half Moon Bay fava beans, roasted Chioggia & golden beets salad looked nice but was fairly light and had a little too much olive oil. Nice fresh beets and beans.
Full blog post:
We enjoyed a meal here this evening with my husband a two kids.
Calamari with beans was good. Didn't hold a candle to the version I had at Chez Panisse once, but entirely respectble. Served with healthy portion of fruity olive oil. My son devoured this dish.
Seabream with shellfish in tomato sauce. Very flavorful sauce, fish a bit overcooked for my taste, but very flavorful. Overall a real winner.
Risotto nero. Nicely al dente, and very nice flavor. A bit salty but not too bad, but the scallops, although fresh tasting were a bit overcooked.
Husband really enjoyed the oxtail pasta.
Son had sausage pizza. Husband said the pizza crust was underdone for his taste and felt the sauce could have more flavor, but he enjoyed the housemade sausage.
Overall, we felt that it was a very good value. We almost ended up back at Mayfield in Palo Alto, and felt this was a much better meal for a better price. We will likely be back.
I was at Donato Enoteca with my friend, and I must say we had a wonderful experience. Food was good and service was attentive without being overbearing.
We ordered the risotto nero and the foiade di funghi (buckwheat pasta with mushroom) which were all good. I Iike the chewy texture of the pasta, and while the risotto nero was a little salty upon the first bite, I just couldn't stop eating it.
For dessert we had the gelato and the sobertto. It was a really nice afternoon and we got to sit outside, and to be honest it was so comfortable that we really didn't want to leave! I'll definitely be back.
A few weeks ago I was back at Donato Enoteca for a table of four. The most memorable dish was one of the day’s specials that says, “Hello Spring!”
Burrata from Campagnia. The essence of spring with English pea puree, tiny frisee, shaved artichoke hearts, and fresh garbanzo beans adding a light salad lift to the sumptuous burrata dabbed with rich olive oil. I loved the use of fresh ceci on this plate.
The other things we ordered:
Pizza Margherita. Quite different than the first time I had this when the restaurant first opened. The tomato sauce was much blander this go-round and the overall effect was not nearly as tasty. We’d ordered it “scorched”, but the crust didn’t get crisp. Also, the pie wasn't oven-hot, maybe sat a little while before it hit the table.
Polpette di melanzana: Fried eggplant croquettes with scamorza cheese and roasted tomato sauce. I loved the bright and fresh accent from the baby greens.
Baccala gratinato. MIlk-braised salt cod baked in the wood oven served with flatbreads. The child with us had never tasted salt cod and wanted to try this. He liked it very much. Some of the crackers were crunchy, and some had lost their crispness and were just hard.
The pair of plates for our second course: risotto and spaghetti.
Risotto gambero e ceci. Another fabulous dish, this kitchen has such a great touch with seafood. Crowned with one giant wood-roasted prawn, and the crustacean was just perfect. The risotto had chunks of shrimp as well, cooked with more fresh ceci and delicious shellfish broth.
Spaghetti neri, $15. Fresh Monterey Bay squid, squid ink sauce, fresh spaghetti with Calabrian peppers and roasted tomatoes with basil. Interesting that the squid ink was a sauce rather than incorporated into the pasta dough, still delicious nonetheless.
Crostacei al forno. Another showpiece seafood dish, beautifully fresh and perfectly cooked shellfish, roasted in the wood oven, on a bed of riso venere.
Kurobuta pork spareribs. The one bad dish, too hard, dried out and tough to chew, could barely cut it with a steak knife. Also the greens were terribly oversalted. Had to send it back and ask for it to be taken off the bill.
Trio of sorbetti: limoncello, passionfruit, and mixed berries. The limoncello is phenomenal, think I'll ask for just this one flavor next time. Passionfruit was past prime and that chunk of ice visible on the scoop should have been caught in the kitchen.
And we had an order of the lovely housemade gelati too, served on a tuile.
The pre-teen at the table enjoyed everything, especially the squid ink pasta, which he had requested. He'd been carefully wiping the black ink off his mouth. At meal's end, I asked him to show me his napkin. Here’s what it looked like.
1041 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063
My thanks to the NYTimes for mentioning this restaurant. Little did we think we'd ever be here but, due to circumstances beyond our control, here we were. I've got to say that the food here is so wonderful, so flavorful. As many others mentioned, the squid ink pasta with calamari was superb as was the buckwheat pasta with wild mushrooms, the grilled fresh sardines, the quail appetizer, well, I could go on and on. I thought the place was beautiful, very European feeling. We had real tablecloths, not paper as described earlier. The wine list was very pleasing too and we drank a lovely gattinara. Although the wait staff was pleasant and attentive, the bus staff was off the mark (no spoon for twirling the ink pasta, e.g. no little spoon for the parsley dipping sauce, no change of napkin after the deeply black pasta, etc) and no one ever came over to see how we were doing or liking our dinner(s)-we went twice. Nonetheless, I would not hesitate to recommend this fine restaurant. Prices are really modest especially given the fine quality they serve.
It was a serendipity for us.
1041 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063
My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Donato in January. We shared the wild boar bruschetta....very flavorful and a nice start. The roasted chicken was delicious. The chicken itself was tender. It came served in a piping hot cast iron pan along with potatoes, veggies, and kalamata olives. I can't wait to go back to order the same meal again. Our server recommended an Italian wine that paired perfectly with our food.
1041 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063