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HMB – The perfect Sunday brunch at Cetrella

rworange | Jul 15, 200504:03 AM

It is nice to do a major uphill report.

Cetrella’s food is finally as fabulous as the restaurant with a polished, professional, knowledgeable staff.

Just before the restaurant opened in 2001 a reporter asked the owner, Paul Shenkman, what he hoped people would say about Cetrella. He replied, “Hopefully, it will be about the food and the dining experience - casual but elegant, relaxed and delicious.”

That is exactly what it was.


Fresh fig foccacia
Local beets with house cured smoked salmon chicory and lemon dressing
Poached eggs with hickory smoked trout, fennel, onions, potatoes and crème fraiche
Cheese plate from their fabulous cheese menu
Carnaroli rice pudding with brandied cherries

Cetrellacella – Paul’s secret recipe limoncello, lemon juice, grenadine, a twist of lemon
Sangria – Tempranillo wine, Spanish brandy, fresh fruit juice\

The foccacia was classic. The fresh slices of black mission figs baked on the top and lightly sugared were a wonderful touch.

If salmon can be lush, this was it, almost velvety and full of bold smoky flavor. The sweet pink chiogga beets and lemon dressing balanced the flavors of the dish.

In contrast, the smoked trout was delicately smoked and elegant. It was part of a ‘hash’ of potatoes, onions and fennel and flavored with fresh herbs. Two perfectly poached eggs topped the hash.

Cetrella takes care with cheese and has a cheese-aging room. You can have the chef’s choice or select from a cheese menu. It is not on their website, so I’ll post the cheese menu for Sunday separately.

Cheese can be ordered singly ($5.50 – $8.50) or three choices for $9.50 or five for $13.50. I really liked the menu. While cheese carts look pretty, it is nice to read a little description of each cheese to decide what suits your taste.

My server was knowledgeable when I asked her questions about some of the cheeses.

Thin, cocktail-sliced, flour-dusted fresh bread came with the cheese plate which also included date nut bread, plump intensely flavored dried apricots and a bunch of frosty looking red grapes. The cheese servings were generous and I was glad I didn’t order 5 cheeses.

My favorite was the triple cream Fleur de Lis from Louisiana. The menu described it as succulent and it was. It almost oozed cream. Paired with grapes, it brought out the moo in this cow’s milk cheese.

Correctly described as assertive on the menu, the sauterne rubbed Clisson Jean D’Alos from France paired nicely with the fig foccacia.

Olive oil rubbed, Garroxta from Barcelona Spain was elegant and had a little bit of a Swiss taste to me.

The creamy rice pudding served in a martini glass, was dusted with cinnamon and topped with toasted almond slivers. The brandied black cherries at the bottom of the glass still had a crunch when I bit into them. Being a food barbarian, I really couldn’t taste any difference in the carnaroli rice. More about this Italian rice in link at end.

The Cetrellacella cocktail blushed a lovely grenadine pink with the lemon twist adding additional beauty to this pastel colored drink. It was even more delicious than it looked with a great balance of tart and sweet.

The plum colored Sangria garnished with a bright yellow wedge of lemon had thin slices of citrus fruits at the bottom of the glass. There were tastes of passion fruit and pineapple. It was very good, but if I would have liked a few more of the Cetrellacellas.

Two other specialty cocktails caught my eye, but I was driving.

Main Street Smash – Bourbon, grenadine, lemon and orange juices
Sparkacella – limoncello, with prosecco and a twist.

I didn’t even look at the wine list yet but on the menu I wistfully looked at the Casalnova Processco and 2000 Charles Heisdick. Someday … bed and breakfast and an evening or two of listening to jazz, sampling cocktails and gazing at the roaring fireplace.

Other brunch items on Sunday that looked good included:

Raspberry scone, acacia whipped butter
Fresh fruit and Greek yogurt and star thistle honey
Tuscan style wood baked eggs with smoked ham, smoked polenta, parmesan cheese.
Soft scramble with Bellweather farms ricotta cheese with local heirloom squash, and tender baby spinach
First if the season peach tart tartin

There was also a rustic wood oven pizza, salmon, chicken, and a tiger prawn salad.

The service was so perfect I found myself nodding in agreement at some of it. Yes, I’d think, that’s how that should happen. The manager was on top of everything. The busboys with white jackets and black pants were prompt yet unobtrusive. The wait staff wearing dark blue shirts, black pants, and black aprons all seemed to be very informed.

Cetrella is a melding of a barn with a French country restaurant. There are huge exposed trusses of the original Farmers' Cooperative building used for processing and shipping local produce like artichokes and brussel sprouts. A skylight runs the length of the restaurant. The restaurant has a few roaring fireplaces and there are counter seats to watch the staff make the dishes on some pretty amazing equipment. A nit, but I liked the fact they have salt shakers and pepper mills at each table.

Cetrella is the name of a valley on the island of Capri, just off the coast of Naples, Italy

After my first visit, I didn’t want Cetrella to be my last blow out dinner before going on a diet. I don’t think I could top this perfect meal. I cancelled my other reservation.

Three years ago I found Chowhound because I was so disappointed in Cetrella. I searched the web to see if anyone else thought that the food was mediocre for a restaurant that put such loving care into the kitchen and building. I certainly was annoyed at Michael Bauer’s review. I found a Chowhound post about Cetrella and … voila … kindred spirits.

Since this was a little of a full circle trip for me, so to speak, I guess every now and then it s ok to say thanks to Chowhound and chowhounds.

A sincere thanks … not just to Jeff … uh, Jim and gang whose hard work mystifies me, but I enjoy … but thanks to every single poster … from the one timer who drops a hint about a dish or restaurant and disappears into cyberspace … to the regulars who have taught me so much and guided to some excellent meals. Thanks to everyone, from Gary Soup to some of the nuts.

Thanks for giving me the inspiration to step into a few more places I might have passed by. Chowhounds kept me amused, entertained, informed and well fed.

One of the best things I read on Chowhound was “Chowhounding is about maximizing deliciousness within whatever circumstances one finds oneself.”

“It's all about rising above impediments. Cravings are impediments. Diet is impediment. Geography is impediment. Hunger is impediment. Money is impediment. SO WHAT???? Do the best you can!”

So while a lovely meal like the one at Cetrella might not be in my radar for a while, I plan to diet fabulously. If it wasn’t for Cetrella leading me to Chowhound, I might be gnawing on rice cakes.

Well, back to finding the next great bite


Additional notes:

Tempranillo is a Spanish grape variety used in many better Spanish wines. The link below says that it is “Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon” and may share some ancestry with Pinot Noir.

Carnaroli Rice


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