I’d already eaten lunch twice on my own dime, when I recently got invited to dine as a guest at Donato Enoteca in Redwood City.
So, you know I already think highly of the food created there by Executive Chef Donato Scotti.
For further proof, just consider that on the evening I was there, a Peninsula chef whom I’ve written about before, dropped by my table to say hello. He’s such a fan of the food there that he’s a regular with his family.
Scotti hails from the small town of Bergamo in Italy, where as a kid, he used to deliver fresh bread by bicycle to his neighbors. He’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, as well as Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, under the direction of owner Piero Selvaggio. Peninsula folks also may remember Scotti for his charming La Strada restaurant in Palo Alto.
He opened Donato Enoteca two years ago. On a warm summer day, a seat at a table on the front patio is a must. Inside, the lovely restaurant is divided into three rooms: First, a bright, airy dining room; then a room with an expansive length of bar that also accommodates diners; and finally, the rear one lined with wine bottles, dark burgundy drapes and masculine wood walls, where we sat.
We started with octopus carpaccio ($8), which arrived at the table in paper-thin cross-sections looking like some sort of artsy mosaic. It was crowned with peppery watercress dressed with olive oil and bright lemon juice.
Pasta shouldn’t be missed here. My favorite one, which I almost always order, is the one with funghi ($13). A tangle of organic buckwheat pasta is tossed with a mix of wild mushrooms, garlic, parsley and Grana Padano. It’s a savory blend of earthy, nutty and sharpness that I can never get enough of.
My husband opted for pappardelle, tinged the slightest green from spinach, and fortified with braised lamb and San Marzano tomatoes for a touch of sweetness ($15). It’s a hearty dish loaded with oh-so-tender wide noodles.
Pork belly pizza ($12)? You bet. And it will surprise. You might picture slabs of pork belly quivering with inches of fat dotted over the top of a crust. But it’s not that at all. Instead, it’s porchetta — meaty, rolled pork belly that’s cut into large, thin slices that cover the entire pizza.
The crust is not crisp and thin. It’s more bready, akin to a flatter focaccia flavored with rosemary. It has a nice developed flavor and had the heft to hold up to the weight of all that grand porchetta.
When ordering grilled branzino ($25), you can choose to have it served whole or as a fillet. When I asked our server which the chef prefers, he rightly answered “whole,” because it allows the fish to retain more moisture when cooked. With an extra plate on the side to discard the bones, it’s a breeze to cut through this whole, flaky fish with its great smoky flavor. Garlic thyme sauce comes on the side for you to gussy it up with.
My husband’s breaded veal chop “Milanese” ($26) was humongous. It was pounded till thin like a cutlet but with the bone still attached, rendering more flavor and juiciness.
Tiramisu ($9) provided a thick, creamy, boozy finish.
My ultimate test for whether I like a restaurant is if I would come back on my own tab and if I would recommend it to foodie friends.
With Donato Enoteca, I’ve already done both.
More Places for Great Pasta: Oakland’s Oliveto
And: Poggio in Sausalito
And: A16 in San Francisco