53 Montgomery Drive,
Santa Rosa, CA
Dinner - August 26, 2007 (and other visits)
After eight years of living in Santa Rosa, there's finally a pizza restaurant we're enthusiastic about: Rosso. Located in an unattractive strip mall, we were amazed at the spiffiness of Rosso's interior. Decorated with antique poster-like custom-made paintings, with an Italian and/or Soccer theme, it scores beauty-simplicity points.
The pizza from the Valoriani wood-burning oven has been very good to great (crispy and thin but gooey where it needs to be). The wine list is really fun with many selections by the glass or carafe and almost all of the choices are organic, sustainable, biodynamic wines. Rosso also has a specials wine board so don't forget to consult it as they've had some interesting and unusual wines on it.
They make their own mozzarella and burrata. The charcuterie is handcrafted. They don’t serve pasta (except for kids and on the Goomba pizza, or as a weekly special). The vegetables and toppings are from local farmers – one of whom we visit weekly at the farmer’s market. They have Slow Food brochures at the door – what’s not to like? Daily specials are on the chalk board and range from slow roasted pig to risotto to gnocchi to lamb shanks. No dessert offered. We're regulars.
So far we’ve tried:
House-made Burrata & Parma Proscuitto
– Good but not mind-blowing. The Burrata is not the big sack of creaminess that I hoped for. The parma was ethereally light and nicely sliced.
Carciofo (two grilled artichoke halves) – Varies from okay to excellent; usually just good. The red pepper aioli is slightly addictive.
Rosso Caesar Piadine – Rosso's version of caesar salad on a pizza crust base. Good dressing. The amount of anchovy, blue cheese and red pepper paste varies as it's made to order. This is an item we regularly order.
Caprese Salad – Chunks of heirloom tomatoes with good oil and mozzarella. I’m not sold on their mozzarella and the tomatoes could have been just a hint riper. Still, very good and will order it again. We love that they use Love Farms tomatoes.
Margherita Pizza – The pizza we order most frequently. Very pleasing.
Funghi Pizza – Very good to great. No red sauce. Another regular item we order. Jack's favorite.
Kid’s Spaghetti & meatballs – Meatballs can have a bit of spiciness so taste them first. The spaghetti is great; well cooked with an excellent sauce.
Fritto Misto – Good; not too greasy and nicely crunchy. We liked the sauce.
Bambini Chicken – The potatoes are wonderful slices with a slightly crispy exterior. The dipping sauce is fresh tomato marinara. The chicken is tender and tastes good (not currently on the kid's menu - Oct 2007).
Motto Gusto pizza – Fast becoming a regular pizza order. Lately we've been enjoying it with tomato sauce instead (it's a white pizza) but it's good either way.
Uva pizza – The only pizza we've had so far which didn't win us over. But it's just personal taste.
Kid's Menu - (The photo is now the menu from February, 2008.) The pizza with tomato and artichokes is not on the new menu but I'm sure they would make it. It still seems strange that they offer pasta choices for kids and not for adults, but their kid's spaghetti is frequently ordered by our young diner. We've also ordered off-menu and the kitchen is very amenable to resonable requests.
Wine List - Incredibly great for a Santa Rosa pizza restaurant. The wine list is very diverse and most of the choices are inexpensive. All are marked as either Organic, Sustainable or Biodynamic. Corkage is $10. Stemware is the equivalent of the Riedel stemless 'O'. (Wine list shown is from February 2008.)
Update February, 2008
We dine at Rosso Pizzeria about six times per month. That's an astounding statement since there's no other restaurant we go to even twice-a-month. In general, we're always pleased with our meal. We also like that quite a few of the purveyors Rosso chooses are ones we often buy from, too. Much of the food/ingredients are local, sustainable and/or organic.
Of the seasonal daily specials, the Wood-Oven Roasted Dungeness Crab (Thurs), Gnocchi (Monday) and Slow-Roasted Pig (Sunday) are our favorites with Market Stew (Tuesday) and Risotto night (Friday) running up. Late-February - Don't miss the wood oven roasted asparagus with aioli if they are offering it!
Note that the specials preparations always vary and if you are concerned, call ahead to find out what today's special consists of. For instance the crab can be quite garlicky or spicy depending on the preparation. If the Rustic Market Stew is Osso Buco, get there early!
During the cold months, they are offering a daily soup special. The Mushroom soup is particularly wonderful, so don't miss it if it's available. The Duck soup is equally wonderful. Okay, the gumbo was wonderful, too. Lately our little diner has been enjoying the tomato soup - made from Parson's locally-grown hothouse tomatoes.
The pizzas we regularly order are the Margherita, Motto Gusto, Goomba and Funghi.
We have been quite happy each time we've ordered salami and charcuterie; we need to order these more often.
The wine list continues to improve, such as the addition of Lutea Pinot Noir RRV, and a very good Prosecco being available by the glass. The 2006 Araujo Altagracia (sauvignon blanc) is a tremendous value. Their markup on wine is quite low – there's no reason not to order wine here.
For a casual light meal in wine country (take the kids!) the quality of food and reasonable prices makes Rosso Pizzeria a first choice for Santa Rosa. There's no dessert, so even if there is a wait, it tends to be shorter than you would guess, as the tables turn quickly. Currently they only take reservations for groups of six or more. They do offer takeout - and do a good job with it, taking care to box things like dressing separately to keep lettuce from wilting.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.