Friday, October 06, 2006

Mangiamo all’italiana

Divino, Ralston Avenue, Belmont California

TWO ITALIAN RESTAURANTS off the beaten track, both in shopping-mall locations, both perfectly fine.

Thursday night we were in Petaluma, there to see what turned out to be rather an impressive performance of Oscar Wilde’s fine play An Ideal Husband, about an idealistic and noble member of parliament who made his entry into politics via a particularly corrupt act. This was produced by Cinnabar Theater, and you should see it if you can. (Never mind. I see it’s closed already.)

We had dinner at Cucina Paradiso, whose menu and kitchenwork seem perfectly authentically Italian. I had a good salad follwed by a sole poach-braised with artichokes, and with this a bottle of one of my favorite wines, a Ceretto Arneis (shared, I hasten to point out, with three friends).

Tonight we’re in San Carlos, of all places, and Lindsey remembered, on scanning the restaurant listings in the Yellow Pages, that Divino was a place that had sounded good when we read about it.

It’s associated with a neighborhood Italian we've been to once or twice in San Francisco, Bacco — a place I always want to go back to.

Here again the menu was interesting, particularly the specials. Again a perfectly nice mixed salad, followed by well-made gnocchi in tomato sauce. Lindsey had fettucine with shrimp and mushrooms, and with these we tossed off glasses of a remarkable Sicilian white, Depranum bianco Inzolia e Grillo — complex and rich.

I particularly enjoyed Divino. Not only the menu and the kitchen, but an engaging waiter, efficient bussers, a pleasantly plain Italian-style room, and tables filled with families, kids at their parents’ elbows. This, to me, is what dining is about. We’ll be back.

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