Ever since its doors opened in June, Terra restaurant at Eataly in the Westfield Valley Fair mall has been a tough reservation to land.
So when farmer Fred Hempel invited me to join him there for dinner last week, I jumped at the chance. Being one of Eataly’s local purveyors obviously has its perks. Indeed, most of the tomatoes and squash blossoms that Hempel grows at his Green Bee Farm in Sunol have been allocated to Eataly’s San Jose-Santa Clara location. You’ll find his farm’s name listed on Terra’s menu, and its tomatoes and squash blossoms not only spotlighted in dishes, but sold fresh in the produce section of Eataly’s market, as well.
That includes his newest creation, the Benevento tomato. A plant geneticist and breeder, Hempel has created new varieties of tomatoes for more than two decades. This gorgeous red beefsteak streaked with green and yellow was bred with greater disease resistance and a longer shelf life. With a deep, full, lingering flavor of sweetness and umami, it’s the tomato that will make your BLT shine.
If like me, you’re limiting yourself to primarily dining outdoors these days, then Terra is right up your alley.
If you’re already a fan of the original Enoteca La Storia in Los Gatos, you’re sure to embrace its big brother that’s more than three times the size that opened last year in San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Owners Joe Cannistraci, 52 of Sicilian heritage, and Mike Guerra, 53 of Calabrese heritage, are proud Italian-Americans who pay homage to Italian forebearers at each location. Cannistraciâ€™s father owned a grocery in New York; while Guerraâ€™s paternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather both owned grocery stores in San Jose, and his maternal grandparents ran Hollisterâ€™s Villa Pace Italian restaurant.
The inside of this historic building has been fully refurbished. It is old Italy meets contemporary industrial with exposed brick and duct work, along with old black and white photos enlarged to pay respect to Italian families who helped shaped this valley. In fact, an assistant manager singled out one particular photo of the Italian family who used to run a bakery on this spot long ago. One of the babies in that photo, now all grown-up, recently came in and pointed out herself to the owners.
The main dining room.
A mock-up receipt from the old bakery that used to operate on the site.
An old photo of the Murillo family that operated the bakery.
Old wood bread paddles from the bakery also are on display, as is a rendering of a receipt from the bakery, blown up to poster size.