Since our lunch chowdown here last month ( http://www.chowhound.com/topics/461388 ), 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