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A Taste of Italy: 25 Must-Try Italian Eats

Mangia means “eat,” but in everyday Italian life, it’s not used as a command—it’s an invitation. It’s not describing the act of eating, but rather the emotion, the feeling of eating. Eat, enjoy, share, love: Mangia!

Italian food at its best is communal. It’s community. It’s family. And it’s the cuisine of simplicity—born of necessity and practicality, and through centuries of tradition elevated into something beautiful. Here in our area, we’re blessed with an impressive number of authentic, deeply Italian restaurants, serving up classics like manicotti, ravioli, and arancini; specialties like traditional Roman alfredo and Milanese risotto; and creative plates like wild boar ragu and chicken piccata pizza. Your taste buds are the only passport you’ll need for this vacation. Allow us to take you on a tour to some of our favorites; if you’re not already a fan of these local legends, you soon will be. 

Papa Gianni's Ristorante has been serving authentic Southern Italian cuisine to the Cameron Park community (and beyond) for over 30 years. Their Spaghetti Marinara & Meatballs is a true crowd-pleaser: flavor-packed, house-made meatballs swimming in slow-simmered marinara over a generous portion of noodles is molto bene! If you manage to save room for dessert, the cannoli—featuring crunchy Italian pastry (made in-house) filled with creamy ricotta, rum, and chocolate—delivers on taste, authenticity and, best of all, size; these babies are BIG. 3450 Palmer Drive, Cameron Park, 530-672-2333,

Papa Gianni's Ristorante; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Placerville’s Amore Mio Italian Bistro sources their ingredients direct from Italy, and their specialty is authentic Roman fare. For uniquely traditional appetizers, try the hugely popular Carcio Fritti Al Formaggio: delicious, deep-fried artichokes filled with mascarpone and goat cheese; or the Fiori Di Zucchina Fritti: crispy zucchini blossoms filled with mozzarella cheese. Simple, elegant, and—dare we say—beautiful, these appetizers get an A+ in my book. 451 Main Street, Suite 8, Placerville, 530-303-3148,

Amore Mio Italian Bistro; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Bene Ristorante Italiano (also known as Pizza Bene) brings the taste of Naples to Placerville. If you’re in the mood for something creatively unique with one foot still firmly in the world of tradition, try the Chicken Piccata Pizza: chicken breast, capers, garlic, mozzarella, fresh squeezed lemon, and extra virgin olive oil. The secret to their classic Neapolitan pizza is Antico Molino Caputo flour, which yields that soft and flavorful crust. Spettacolare! 423 Main Street, Placerville, 530-303-3415,

Bene Ristorante Italiano; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


The Place (locations in Placerville and Roseville) is an ode to Italian family and fresh, original cuisine. Try something different for your appetizer: Piedmontese Bagna CaudaHot Bath.” (Please remain clothed—the bath is for the bread, folks.) This warming concoction of confit garlic, extra virgin olive oil, white wine, and lemon (anchovies are available on request but highly recommended) is served with warmed rosemary Italian flatbread for dipping and sublime enjoyment. (No splashing allowed.) 221 Vernon Street, Roseville, 916-742-5447; 1772 Pleasant Valley Road, Placerville, 530-621-1680,

The Place


Il Forno Classico in Rancho Cordova offers traditional Italian cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere. Sample from their range of fine Italian beers, like Menabrea, Dolomiti, and Peroni; for your entrée, try a Northern Italian classic, like the delicious Milanese Risotto: creamy saffron risotto tossed with chicken breast, pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes, peas, and parmesan. Simplicity at its finest! 2121 Golden Centre Lane, Suite 10, Gold River, 916-858-0651,

Il Forno Classico


Vacanza Romana in El Dorado Hills is an homage to the flavors of Rome. The must-try Fettucine Alfredo is a traditional Roman-style rendition of the dish, based on the original created in 1908 by Alfredo di Lelio. Forget chain-restaurant-heavy-cream-goop you’ve had before; Vacanza Romana’s delicate Alfredo is the real deal: house-made fettucine, butter, garlic, and parmigiano reggiano. That’s it! No bells, no whistles, just perfect, elegant Italian cuisine. And if you want to pump up the protein, adding prawns is a (delicious) possibility, too. 2023 Vine Street, Suite 101, El Dorado Hills, 916-673-9620,

Vacanza Romana


Tre Pazzi Trattoria in Auburn believes simplicity and freshness are the keys to authentic Italian cooking. Keep it traditional with their Arancini: rice balls stuffed with mozzarella and green peas, rolled in Italian breadcrumbs, and served with creamy béchamel, pesto, and San Marzano tomato sauce—Sicilian-style street food so good you’ll swear you’re in Palermo. Try a little something from their imported Italian beer, wine, or cocktail selection, too—Aperol spritz, anyone? 928 Lincoln Way, Auburn, 530-823-2994,

Tre Pazzi Trattoria; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Via Roma Pizzeria con Cucina (locations in Rocklin and Lincoln) pride themselves on homestyle Italian cuisine in a cozy, intimate setting. Their traditional Lasagna is the star of the show: homemade pasta layered with ground pork, beef, and ricotta, topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese; we’re talking the peak of Italian simplicity. Full of deep, rich flavor, it will only bring a Zen-like smile of true satiety (that’s fancy-talk for “good”), but you’ll keep coming back for more. 1230 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 600, Rocklin, 916-663-6141; 2270 Nicolaus Road, Suite 108, Lincoln, 916-209-3485,

Via Roma Pizzeria con Cucina; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Named after the Italian hometown of their founder, Granite Bay’s Vaiano Trattoria is dedicated to serving the flavors of Tuscany and traditional Italian cuisine. Where else can you find Pappardelle Al Cinghiale: tender flat pasta noodles topped with a richly flavorful wild boar ragu? Just one bite of this traditional Tuscan dish, and you’ll be whisked straight to Siena—no passport necessary! Make sure you leave room for their traditional Italian panna cotta for dessert, too. 7160 Douglas Boulevard, Granite Bay, 916-780-0888,

Vaiano Trattoria


Dominick’s Italian Restaurant & Deli is a Granite Bay institution that’s dedicated to authentic Italian cuisine, cocktails, and wine. Give in to your seafood craving and enjoy the Linguine with Mussels fra Diavolo, which translates to “brother devil” in Italian. Sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and basil and served in a spicy marinara sauce, this dish has a kick—and will have everyone in the restaurant eyeing your plate! Served with your choice of soup or salad and rustic bread, get ready to dig into deliciousness. 8621 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay, 916-786-3355,

Dominick’s Italian Restaurant & Deli; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Visconti’s Ristorante in Folsom has roots in the Southern Italian cuisine of Calabria and Sicily and has been serving the region since 1992. For an authentic Italian dining experience, look no further than Mama’s famous house-made Tiramisu: Italian lady fingers layered with Italian cream, cheese, and soaked in espresso. Nothing short of perfection. Mangiamo! 2700 East Bidwell Street, Suite 700, Folsom, 916-983-5181,

Visconti’s Ristorante; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Petali prides itself on scratch-made Italian cuisine served fast. Their own Papa Joe immigrated from the Calabria region in 1912, and the namesake Petali signature appetizer is one of his recipes: battered zucchini “petals” seasoned with a special blend of herbs and spices, then pan-fried and served with marinara sauce for dipping. Don’t forget to order the homemade cannoli for dessert; it’s a crowd favorite! 3101 Zinfandel Drive, Suite 128, Rancho Cordova, 916-330-1595,



Folsom’s Cia di Gelateria makes authentic Italian artisan gelato in-house, and it’s kept in a traditional enclosed display (known as “pozzetti”) to preserve the consistency, so it’s always fresh and delicious. For a truly traditional experience, try the Stracciatella: a delicious cream-flavored gelato with chocolate shavings. Elevate your experience by ordering it affogato-style; aka, with a shot of freshly pulled espresso. 2784 East Bidwell Street, Suite 100, Folsom, 916-817-1430,

Cia di Gelateria


Fabian’s Italian Bistro in Fair Oaks specializes in Italian fine dining using locally sourced ingredients. Much like the night sky, the menu features many stars, but the house-made Ravioli—filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, then topped with a lemon cream sauce and gremolata—is certainly a fan favorite and will make your taste buds sing. (Many have requested to-go mugs of the lemon cream sauce; many have been denied. We can dream, right?) 11755 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Fair Oaks, 916-536-9891,

Fabian's Italian Bistro


La Fornaretta in Newcastle specializes in traditional Italian hospitality, high-quality Sicilian cuisine, and family traditions dating back over 50 years. Their Ravioli Sugo receives rave reviews, and with good reason: tender cheese-filled ravioli topped with La Fornaretta’s house-made tomato sauce that’s cooked the traditional way for over four hours. We’re talking Italian magic here. Trust and believe that this is the good stuff! 455 Main Street, Suite 4, Newcastle, 916-663-1338,

La Fornaretta


Pizza Norcia in El Dorado is the home of wood-fired, Umbrian-inspired pizza. The Norcino is especially noteworthy, thanks to prosciutto and truffles imported direct from Norcia (aka, home of pork and truffles). What else is this praiseworthy pie topped with? Black truffle mushroom spread, fior di latte (flower of milk) mozzarella, and fresh arugula tossed with lemon and prosciutto on a perfectly chewy wood-fired crust. It’s a gourmet trip to Italy all wrapped up into one beautiful bite. 6180 Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado, 530-622-3593,

Pizza Norcia


Named for the master of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarotti, Buonarroti Ristorante brings a touch of Old Italy to downtown Lincoln. Ziti Capriosa is one of the traditional stars of the menu: tender ziti (tube pasta) tossed with Chef Daniel’s famous homemade red sauce, fresh portobello mushrooms, and mouthwatering meatballs, then topped with melted mozzarella. Finish off with a caffè corretto: an espresso shot plus a splash of Italian grappa. 460 Lincoln Boulevard, Lincoln, 916-645-7951,

Buonarroti Ristorante


Amore Eats in Citrus Heights specializes in handmade Neapolitan pizzas, bread, and freshly made pasta on Sundays—and they’re fast becoming a local favorite. Their Margherita Pizza is pure tradition: Neapolitan-style crust (airy with a puffed edge) topped with the traditional signature colors of the Italian flag: red San Marzano tomatoes, creamy white melted mozzarella, and fresh green basil leaves (drizzled with premium EVOO, of course). Pick-up only. 7800 Sunrise Boulevard, Suite 10, Citrus Heights, 916-201-2109,

Amore Eats


Flour Dust Pizza in Roseville “keeps it one hundred” (as the kids say) as far as Italian authenticity goes. The owner trained in Florence, and the pizza is cooked in an authentic Italian pizza oven built by the owner himself! For a unique pie that evokes the classic flavors of Italy with a twist, try Ali’s Special: topped with ricotta and goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, pistachios, red onions, spicy honey, and parmesan. Pro tip: Add prosciutto! 5080 Foothills Boulevard, Suite 5, Roseville, 916-773-5080,

Flour Dust Pizza


Pasquale’s has returned to Auburn! The classic Italian restaurant—beloved by locals back in the day—closed in 2008, and reopened this June in the heart of downtown under new ownership (of a former Pasquale’s employee!). The menu includes many old Italian favorites, plus new ones, like Pasta Caruso, named for the owner’s mother’s family name. Angel hair pasta tossed with a simple tomato sauce, drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and fresh basil, it’s simple, perfect, and elegant. Rest assured that the portion sizes are still the same: no one leaves without a to-go bag! 210 Washington Street, Auburn, 530-878-5222,

Pasquale's; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Miabella Gelato in Roseville celebrates their Italian heritage with delicious gelato—and takes their craft very seriously. They trained at Gelato University (it’s a real thing) with Luciano Ferrari, frozen dessert technologist. Flavor-wise, our favorite is Gianduia (dark chocolate hazelnut), which tastes like the best Nutella gelato you’ve ever had. 1198 Roseville Parkway, Suite 140, Roseville, 916-415-7075,

Miabella Gelato; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Antelope’s Taste of Tuscany Ristorante uses local ingredients from farm-to-fork suppliers, and their menu offers traditional Italian fare as well as a spin on some classic favorites. Where else can you find a Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza? (You read that correctly.) We’re talking sliced Italian meatballs and spaghetti served on a garlic butter crust with sweet marinara sauce. I mean, when you really think about it who DOESN’T want pasta with their pizza? We’ll take two please! 7753 Roseville Road, Suite A, Sacramento, 916-727-7055,

Taste of Tuscany Ristorante; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Celestino’s NY Pizza & Pasta in Rocklin is all about New York-style Italian-American pizza; and, in the opinion of this writer, there’s nothing more New York (and nothing more Italian-American) than a pizza named after Louie De Palma, Danny DeVito’s lovable scumbag dispatcher from Taxi. Getta load of this pie: ricotta topping with garlic, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Best eaten while insulting someone much taller than you and humming the theme song to Taxi. Is someone in your crew more of a “cheese, please!” person? Order your pie half White (olive oil base, ricotta, garlic, and mozzarella) for a slice that’s extra nice. 6160 Stanford Ranch Road, Suite 900, Rocklin, 916-771-8600,

Celestino’s NY Pizza & Pasta; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Caffè Italiano Ristorante brings a taste of Italy to Fair Oaks with their authentic Italian cuisine. Try the Tortellini Panna e Prosecutto—tender cheese tortellini topped with prosciutto di parma enrobed in a rich cream sauce. Not only is it richly delicious, but it represents all the major food groups, too: cheesy, salty, meaty, and creamy. Be sure to sample from their selection of Italian wines and avail yourself of the house-made tiramisu, too. 8112 Madison Avenue, Fair Oaks, 916-436-4037,

Caffè Italiano Ristorante; photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup


Sette Pasta House in Granite Bay—an all-new venture from the owner of Fourk Kitchen and Citizen Vine in Lincoln—is slated to open early next year. Sette (Italian for “seven”) will feature a limited menu of just seven dishes (see how that works?): five core homemade pasta plates, along with two rotating entrées each month. We’re especially excited to try the Lasagna Bolognese! 6851 Douglas Boulevard, Suite B, Granite Bay,

Sette Pasta House


Italian-Inspired Wineries

Mastroserio Winery specializes in Italian-style wines from various Italian varietals, all located in the heart of Fairplay wine country. If you’re lucky, owner Ruggero Mastroserio might even show off his saxophone skills! 7351 Fairplay Road, Somerset, 530-417-4321,

Swing by Nello Olivo for their self-proclaimed “best wines under the California sun,” and let The Grapefather pour you a wine you can’t refuse. 3544 Carson Road, Camino, 530-303-3617; 643 Bee Street, Placerville, 530-409-5603,

Via Romano Vineyards offers a taste of Italy in El Dorado County with their Italian-inspired winery and vineyard of nebbiolo grapes from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. 2875 Larsen Drive, Camino, 530-269-9463,

Italian heritage runs strong at Di Stasio Vineyards, a winery first settled by the family’s Italian ancestors in the early 1900s. Fast forward to today, and the Italian hospitality and devotion to winemaking continues. 10788 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, 209-256-1524,

Discover a piece of Tuscany in the heart of Amador County at Villa Toscano Winery, whose wines, architecture, art, and even food are designed to evoke a true Tuscan experience. 10600 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, 209-245-3800,

Vino Noceto Winery—locally known as the “house of sangiovese”— boasts “the best sangiovese in all of California.” Yes, these folks are obsessed with sangiovese (in the best way possible)! 11011 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, 209- 245-6557,

Cristaldi Vineyards considers themselves a true “vino locale,” with a passion for Italian-styled field-blends. Wines include sangiovese, dolcetto, barbera, nebbiolo, zuppa di vino, ribello, and even a prosecco-style l’acqua pazza sparkling. 4060 Ridge Drive, Loomis, 916-759-1291,

Ciotti Cellars comes from a long, time-honored family tradition of winemaking: Their grandfather stowed away in a wine barrel to find a new life in America (so they technically win at family legend-telling, as well as winemaking). 3285 Crosby Herold Road, Lincoln, 916-534-8780,

by Sharon Penny

Papa Gianni's Ristorante  photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Bene Ristorante Italiano and Amore Mio Italian Bistro photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. The Place photo courtesy of The Place. Vacanza Romana photo by Lyda Mock. Tre Pazzi Trattoria photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Il Forno Classico photo courtesy of Il Forno Classico. Via Roma Pizzeria con Cucina and Dominick's Italian Restaurant & Deli photos by Taylor Allred @stylemediagroup. Vaiano Trattoria photo courtesy of Vaiano Trattoria. Visconti’s Ristorante photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Pasquale's photo by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup.

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