#217: Cibo7 Ristorante & Wine Bar

Last night I went to dinner at Cibo7 Ristorante & Wine Bar, located next to Blue Nami in the Stone Point shopping center on Eureka.  I didn’t know much about this place and assumed it would be like House of Oliver.  That was an incorrect assumption.  They have a lot of wine for sure but that’s about where the comparison ends.

I was meeting my mom and grandma at 5:30 but arrived a little early this evening.  I stepped inside to see if they were busy and check it out in general.  It was pretty quiet.  The bar itself was mostly full but the rest of the bar area and all the dining room tables were vacant.  I was greeted by the hostess who gave me a quick rundown of what they are all about when I said I was just taking a look while I waited for the rest of my party.  They serve Italian, Spanish & French cuisine, focus on local produce, make their pasta fresh in-house every day and get their seafood delivered fresh daily.  Their website is pretty sparse and does not have a menu, I take it that’s because it probably changes very frequently.

They are open Tuesday-Saturday 4-10pm with wine tastings Saturdays from 2-4 and happy hour (or Social Hour as they call it on their website) from 4-7 Tuesday-Friday.  I stepped back outside to wait and watch the steady stream of cars and people filtering into the shopping center for the evening.  They have a very nicely done patio area with some heaters.  It was empty at the moment aside from a new server who was taking time to study the menu for the night.

Soon we were all here and headed back in where we were asked if we had a reservation (we did not) but were seated immediately anyway.  We were the first ones in the dining room.  From this point on there was a very consistent flow through the front doors of people heading into the bar for happy hour.  Before long it was jam-packed and basically at standing room only.  I’d be interested to go back and see what kind of happy hour specials they do, because it’s obviously a very popular spot.  A side effect of this big crowd was that the noise level became quite high.

We started looking over the wine list while we were served waters and bread and our server removed the 4th place setting.  The wine list is large, as in a full-sized menu binder with many pages.  When my mom ordered their bottle of Pinot Grigio I asked our server, Mariah, if they had any beer.  She named off about 4 or 5 on draught and then mentioned that they have a list of bottles as well, which I opted to take a look at before making a decision.  She brought this over quickly.  The bottle selection was much better, with about 20 or so to choose from.  No stouts unfortunately but there were a couple of porters.  I chose the one I’ve never had (or seen before for that matter) which was Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter from England [$8].  I found it interesting that they had five options for bottled water on this list as well.  If beer or wine doesn’t fancy you, they also have a fully stocked bar.

She soon returned with my beer and also to break the bad news that they did not have the wine my mom had ordered.  They only had that single Pinot Grigio so she recommended the 2013 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc [$30].  She then proceeded to present my 12oz bottle of Samuel Smith’s as if it were a wine, so I figured I better nod my approval/acceptance, and she opened and poured it.  It was mostly pretty smooth and drinkable with just a bit of bitterness to it.  Not too bad.

Now focused on the menu, I discovered that this was definitely one of the pricier places in town.  I might even say top 5.  Entrees varied from the $30s to mid-$40s with appetizers starting in the teens.  We decided on an appetizer to start, the Waygu Beef and Dixon Lamb Meatballs (Fennel-Yogurt Cream, Redwood Hills Feta and Parsley Oil)[$15].  Our server asked how we would like these cooked, and after we all looked at each other, shrugging, my mom said medium.  None of us had even considered this question in advance for meatballs.  We ordered our entrees along with it.

It took a long time for the appetizer to come out, nearly 30 minutes.  During this time we munched on the bread.  This was a smallish plate with thin slices of some kind of delicious bread with a crunchy crust and soft middle.  Served with it was a garlic aioli type spread.  The garlic was strong, I smelled it as soon as it had been set down in the middle of the table, and it was delicious.  As soon as we had finished the last piece of bread (not joking, it was probably still being chewed) the plate was taken and replaced with a new one with more bread and new garlic spread.  That was nice.  During our wait our server came by and refilled the wine glasses and waters before anyone even realized they were getting low.  She was pretty on top of things throughout the night.

Finally, the appetizer was delivered.  5 good sized meatballs sat in a circle in the center of a large round dish, topped with crumbles of Feta and surrounded by the fennel-yogurt cream and parsley oil.  These were amazing.  They were incredibly complex in flavor with both meats and the rich sauce, oil and cheese all hitting you at once.  I highly recommend these if they’re still on the menu if/when you go.

After we had finished it was another wait for the entrees, a bit over 30 minutes this time.  Around now the dining room had nearly filled up and the bar was still packed.  The crowd looked to be mostly in their 40s and up and all pretty well dressed.  I guessed mostly due to the prices and that many were getting off work from the nearby law and financial offices.  Not long after we polished off the last meatball the plate was removed along with our appetizer plates.  Like a ninja, our server quickly and silently replaced used silverware and also set a steak knife in front of me (which I was not expecting based on my entree selection).

At last, our main dishes arrived.  First my mom’s Stromboli (Pomodoro Sauce, House Fennel Sausage, Hand Pulled Mozzarella, Prosciutto Di Parma, Crimini Mushroom and Grana Padano)[$21].  The sauce came in a separate small dish on the side (and there looked to be a lot of it).  Next up was my grandma’s Roasted Baby Beet Salad (Wild Arugala, Pomegranate Seeds, Redwood Hills Chèvre, Baby Herbs, Truffle Vinaigrette, Balsamic Reduction)[$14].  This was a very nice looking salad with all the beets and pomegranate piled up in the center in a bright red cone, topped with bits of goat cheese.  The truffle vinaigrette was sending it’s deliciously rich aroma to me from the moment the plate was set down and throughout the meal.  Both said they enjoyed their dinners for the most part, though the beet salad was labeled “OK”, mostly because it was just a beet salad, which I guess is hard to argue with.

My entree arrived last, but not far behind the others.  It was riding on the largest plate they could conceivably find.  It was borderline silly.  I had ordered the Pan Rendered Muscovy Duck Breast (Grass Valley White Polenta, Chorizo Braised, Tin Roof Farms Collard Greens and a Blood Orange-Chipotle Glace)[$31].

When I ordered this I was a bit taken aback because the server asked how I wanted it cooked.  I’d never encountered that question in regards to poultry and didn’t know what to go with so I told her however the chef prefers.  What I received was basically duck meets steak.  This is why I was given a steak knife.  It was much more like a steak in consistency than any duck I’ve ever had before.  The top was pan-fried crisp and the bottom was closer to what I had in mind – slick, greasy, dark duck meat.  In-between it was almost exactly like a beef steak in terms of texture.  The flavor was undoubtably duck however.  It took me a couple bites to get into this, mostly because I was so taken off guard I guess, but I really enjoyed it from then on out.  The blood orange-chipotle glace was sweet and had a deep, rich orange flavor that wasn’t tart in the slightest.  It was fantastic.  I enjoyed the greens as well as the polenta, which was effectively prepared and presented like mashed potatoes.  The chorizo didn’t seem to have much flavor to it.

After dinner we were presented with an adorable mini-version of the menu that had their desserts, including Deconstructed Tiramisu and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding, along with a selection of dessert wines including ports and sherries.  We were all pretty full however so we called it a night.

Overall I was mostly impressed by Cibo7.  Of course, I went in expecting something much more casual and low-key like Oliver.  The prices are certainly up there.  My mom agreed with some reviews that she had read saying that it is overpriced.  I feel like the service and food was up to par, but the speed of the kitchen definitely needed some improvement.  This isn’t the place where I expect to be in and out in less than an hour, but 30 minutes in-between apps and entrees was excessive.  Throughout our visit the manager (perhaps owner?) checked on us a couple times and then said good night from the patio as we headed out. As I said earlier I’d like to see what the happy hour specials look like because while I might not make this a regular stop, perhaps a quick drink and appetizer in the evening would be nice here.  I feel like it fits in pretty well in Stone Creek, and with the crowd it had on this Thursday night it should be around for the foreseeable future.  This is probably the most solid collection of restaurants in a single spot in Roseville.

#197: Mary’s Pizza Shack

This afternoon I was feeling hungry.  I had decided earlier in the day that I would do Mary’s Pizza Shack for dinner, so off I went.  Mary’s Pizza Shack is one of nearly 20 that are scattered around the north bay and northern CA.  I decided they were local enough to count.  Ours is located in the Nugget shopping center at Pleasant Grove and Fairway.  I had glanced over the pizzas side of the menu a little before heading out and had an idea of what I would order already.

When I arrived at 5PM, right about on the dot, I walked over near the still-temporarily-closed Golden Dragon Buffet to take a photo of the exterior.  While I was doing so, someone inside had noticed me.  A minute later as I was heading towards the door I crossed paths with the owner, Carla, who asked what the photos were for.  About half the time when I get this question I say for fun, the other half I say for the blog.  Whatever I’m feeling at the time.  This time I said the blog to which she was very receptive.  After making a trip to her car she caught back up with me so she could get me seated herself and introduce me to the bartender, April.  She looked to be headed out but before leaving made sure to tell April and myself that my dinner was taken care of.  This was very generous.  I had always wondered if something like this would happen, especially after being on Good Day Sac and knowing there was a decent chance of being recognized.  Surprisingly though, this is the first time (with exception to the two breakfasts we had for Good Day).  Honestly it made me pretty nervous and concerned about how it would affect my writing.  I’ll get back to that later.

I was seated at the end of the bar giving me a nice view of the entire place.  April got me going with a 22oz Lazy Daze Pilsner, one of the many beers that are brewed on site.  I was aware to a small extent that they brewed some beer here, based on their beverages menu, but I really didm’t expect it to be more than two or three.  Turns out they have a full on brewery set up which you can see through the windows in the bar photo.  The brewery itself is called Lazy Daze Brewery and they’ve got a little bit of everything.  I tasted the Dave’s Not Here Man double IPA, which was recommended by a customer sitting nearby.  I’m generally not one for hoppy beers at all, but this went down so smoothly I would seriously consider it.  At 10% it will pack a little punch too if you’re not paying attention.  I also tried the Irish Red Ale which was nice and malty with an almost velvety texture.  The pilsner was crisp, light and refreshing for this nice warm day and a big meal, just what I needed.

The head of the kitchen, Anthony, came out to introduce himself and tell me a bit about how they do things.  Nearly everything they make in-house, and the small amount that they don’t is made per their own recipes by their vendors.  He recommended the Chicken Parmigiana (Chicken smothered in cheesy love. Breaded chicken breast topped with homemade marinara sauce and melted provolone cheese, served on a bed of
 fettuccine pasta with Alfredo sauce)[$15.50].  This had me questioning my pizza choice and he left me to study the menu and decide.  I think it was right about at this point that I started to realize that this wasn’t your average pizza joint and that the name is kind of deceiving.  It’s really closer to a proper Italian restaurant with a very casual atmosphere and a good-sized pizza selection.  The bar wasn’t something I had expected, nor the full table-service setting.  The pizza I was contemplating was a half Buffalo Chicken (The perfect combination: chicken tossed in a spicy Buffalo sauce topped with mozzarella cheese and fried onion strings. {Does not include pizza sauce.}) and half Pesto Chicken (Grilled pesto chicken, roasted tomatoes, and three kinds of cheese: mozzarella, provolone and a sprinkling of feta. {Does not include pizza sauce.}).  Prices for both of these pizza’s are: Bambino:$10.25, Small:$14.50, Medium:$18.50 and Large:$22.95.  The menu states that half-and-halves are priced slightly higher.  These are definitely on the higher end in Roseville.

While I was deciding I received a basket of warm and toasty bread which was light and pretty tasty.  Finally, I ran my two choices by April to see which I should go with.  She had earlier agreed with Anthony that the Chicken Parmigiana was a very good option.  Despite that, she said that the two pizzas I had chosen were her favorites and encouraged me to go with them since I had being considering them before arriving, so I went ahead with the pizza and picked the small size.

I wasn’t keeping very good track of time while I sat up at the bar, drinking my beer and listening to a few regulars chat with the staff, but I would venture a guess that the pizza took somewhere around 15 min to come out from the time I ordered it.  Up until I grabbed my first slice, as I said earlier, I was concerned about the integrity of this post.  Most of my worry was that it might not be very good and that I’d feel like a jerk for accepting a free meal and feel pressured to write about it in a nicer light than it deserved.  Once I took a bite however, all that concern faded away quickly.  This was an incredible pizza.  The crust was thin and crunchy, but also somewhat light throughout, less dense than most crusts.  It supported the weight of each slice on it’s own, just barely.  Coincidentally I had chosen two pizzas that didn’t have any pizza sauce.  Neither one seemed dry at all though.  The Pesto Chicken had a bit of pesto drizzled here and there.  The chicken was quite tender and moist itself and the roasted tomatoes had plenty of moisture in them, so no sauce really wash’t a big deal.  The flavor was intense.  Specifically, the pesto and fetta dominated, with the milder cheeses coming through at the end.  The Buffalo Chicken side was covered in fried red onion strings to the point where you couldn’t even see the cheese or chicken underneath.  I could absolutely taste them though.  The cheese was plentiful and stretched out half a foot before I used my fingers to break it off before things got out of hand.  The chicken, hiding under both the mozzarella and crispy onions, was very flavorful and had a nice heat from the rich buffalo sauce that, somehow,  did not overwhelm the other ingredients.

I really dug both of these pizzas.  They just overtook Rosati’s for my favorite pizza in Roseville.  I love the hell out of Trademark Pizza and have been going back regularly, but they’re in a whole different category and I don’t feel like they compete for the same spot.  They are both top pizzas in my mind.  As for the service, obviously they treated me very well.  Watching the staff’s interactions with other customers however, I decided that the service I received wasn’t too far off from the norm.  I always had it in my mind that Mary’s Pizza Shack was going to be something along the lines of a Straw Hat Pizza.  I was very much proven wrong, and I’m glad I was.  For those that don’t make their way into the Nugget shopping center that often, like myself, you are missing out on this excellent restaurant hidden way back in the corner.

#153: Giraffe Restaurant (CLOSED)

When I first heard about Giraffe Restaurant a couple months ago I was curious, mostly because the name really doesn’t tell you anything at all, unless of course they served tasty giraffe meat, which for the record I would totally try.  I looked into it briefly once or twice and skimmed over the menu.  Nothing really popped out at me at the time.  As I was looking over my list this week to figure out where to go next, I visited their website once more.  This time, however, a good portion of their menu sounded really appealing.  I must have been in the right mood to process it.  They are located at the corner of Fairway and Pleasant Grove, across from Nugget near Lowes.  They serve an interesting mix of American, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.  American was represented by a burger, but most everything else seemed to be of the other two.

I met up with my mother at 6PM for dinner.  I was a bit early.  From out front it looked like they had two entrances, neither of which is very clearly marked, they kind of blend into the glass front.  I took a gamble with the door on the right, underneath the main Giraffe signage.  This turned out to be the correct one.  I found myself in a little waiting area with some chairs, a copy of the menu on a table to the other side and a woman standing there ready to greet me.  The other door leads right into the middle of the dining room.  I told her I was waiting for one more and she asked if I would like to be seated or wait.  I chose to be seated and we rounded a small divider wall  and came back to the front by the windows where I was given a booth.  The dining room is very open as is the kitchen, which you can see most of from your seat.  The ceiling above this side was crazy high.  Behind me was one of several giraffe decorations and some plants sitting on what must have been a counter people sat at in whatever this place used to be.  There was just one other person in the dining room, sitting in the center at a small table.  Eventually he was joined by one more.  Another couple came in while I was waiting and had apparently been here before because the waitress said she remembered them.  Finally, a mother and daughter showed up, curious what kind of restaurant it was (I suspect most people in Roseville are wondering this when they see the name), then after looking at the menu for a moment took a seat.

The waitress, who was the only person tending to the customers while I was there, brought me a large cup of ice water.  Soon my mom joined and she received water as well.  The waitress asked if we would like anything else to drink but we both stuck with water.  They have a very limited beverage selection right now.  According to their website they are waiting on their beer and wine public notice to be processed.  For the time being it’s soda, tea and coffee.  We went over the menu (which strangely opened like a wall calendar rather than like a book).  I think we both picked out an entree fairly quickly, and I then turned my attention to the starters.  I was curious about the “Chicken White Soup,” although by the time we were placing our order I forgot to ask about it.  Instead we ordered the Eggplant Dip (Roasted eggplant, onion, garlic and tomato with dairy sauce and pita bread)[$5.89].  For my entree I chose the Grilled Half Cornish Hen (Half a hen {13oz} with grilled tomato and sweet pepper, cup corn, garlic toast, with choice of pomegranate or mushroom sauce)[10.89].  I figured the mushroom sauce would probably be good although I was very curious about the pomegranate sauce and had planned on getting that.  I completely failed to notice that she didn’t ask me.  A minute after she had left she came back and very apologetically informed me that they were out of the pomegranate and asked if the mushroom was OK, so that’s how that worked itself out.

Less than 10 minutes after we ordered we received an appetizer of fried pita chips with a white dipping sauce.  The chips were very crunchy and warm.  The sauce was light, cool and had a definite cucumber flavor to it.  She returned just a minute or two later with the eggplant dip and asked if we liked the sauce, then listed off some of it’s ingredients and compared it to Tzatziki sauce.  It was really good and this seemed to be a standard complimentary appetizer.  I saw her deliver one to each of the other tables.  Our eggplant dip was warm and was served with soft triangles of pita bread.  It was pretty difficult to scoop any of the dip up with the bread alone and we had to use one of our forks to assist.  Neither of us was really into this, but I think it’s because we’re not that crazy about eggplant (I’ve not had a lot of eggplant, so I didn’t really consider it when ordering it).  It wasn’t bad at all, in fact once the initial eggplant flavor in a bite subsided, allowing the other ingredients to shine, it was pretty decent.  While we finished all the pita bread, there was probably about half of the dip remaining.  Our waitress offered to bring more bread out when she came by to clear the two plates.

It was roughly 15 minutes between when these appetizers first arrived and when the entrees came out.  The presentation was nice on both.  My moms Beef Stroganoff with Rotini (chopped beef, mushroom, bell pepper, white sauce and three-blended cheese with fresh herbs and vegetables)[$8.49] came in a big bowl that was mostly rim.  After digging in she realized that the bowl was deceptively deep and that there was considerably more there than we thought.  She ended up taking half of it to go for leftovers.  She said the beef was very tender and that overall the dish was quite good.

My grilled half Cornish hen was quite large and covered in the white mushroom sauce.  The sauce had lots of good sized slices of mushrooms along with a full mushroom off to the side, next to a colorful trio of grilled veggies consisting of a big slice a zucchini, half a tomato and a full sweet pepper.  On the other side was a little cup of corn, topped with a bit of shredded cheese.  I took a bite of this and was surprised at how peppery it tasted, as if it had been covered in invisible black pepper(though some coarsely ground pepper was clearly visible, it just didn’t seem to match what I was tasting).  It was buttery and good, just wow, really peppery also.  Each of the veggies were soft from the grill and cut easily with my butter knife.  The zucchini and tomato were very tasty.  I didn’t get to the pepper before I started to get full.  The hen was outstanding.  Perfectly prepared, the white meat portions were moist and tender, and the dark meat was fatty and full of flavor.  A bit of delicious skin here and there and it was a real treat.  The mushroom sauce was better than I anticipated, it was very rich and the mushroom slices themselves were wonderful as well.

The amount of meat was a lot more than expected and I had enough to take home for a small lunch tomorrow.  I might have attempted to eat it all there but after my mom had requested a container for hers, the waitress suggested dessert and described a special.  She was very soft spoken the entire time and so I didn’t catch the name of this dessert, only some of the description, and I had to have her repeat part of it again.  It was described as being similar to flan, which had me mostly in on that alone, with raspberry sauce on top.  I went ahead and ordered one.  It came out in a mug and appeared to be a white custard.  The raspberry sauce was drizzled on top in the shape of a heart.  It was pretty awesome.  My mom best described it as a very good vanilla bean ice cream, but not frozen.  It had the consistency of something between a mousse and creme brulee custard.  Overall, pretty amazing.  I asked her what it was afterwards and she told us Panna Cotta.  I’ve heard of it but I’ve pretty certain this was the first time I’ve ever had it.  I’m a fan.  I didn’t take the receipt with me but I think it was something like 5 or 6 bucks.

So Giraffe Restaurant, an oddly named place with mixed cuisine.  Our waitress was excellent from start to finish and all the food was fresh and delicious.  Given the quality and portions I would say that the prices were extremely reasonable, even on the low side in some areas.  I would definitely return.