Saturday, December 24, 2011

SEVERELY excellent Italian dining at Cucina Italiana at Lake Berryessa, Napa County, California

Cucina Italiana is a must-stop for anyone of responsible temperament who happens across Lake Berryessa’s western shoreline in Napa County, California. If your idea of a good food stop includes excessive alcohol consumption, rowdy behavior, and burnout sessions in the parking lot, then find your way over to one of those other places, the ones with dozens of sport-bikes lined up outside. If, however, you enjoy a pleasant atmosphere in an informal yet tasteful setting, an interesting, technically and artistically proficient host (Chef and owner Stefano Gusberti, whose CV includes training in Parma and experience at Masa’s in SF), and if you hunger for some really excellent, authentic, reasonably priced Italian eats, this is where you need to go. I personally recommend any of the several types of ravioli. Best ravioli I have ever had, period. There’s lots to choose from, including various pasta, pesce, carne, and pollo dishes. 

Stefano also serves up a mean rib eye. With pepper sauce, made with whole black peppercorns. Vegetable of the day on the side, with all the bread and excellent Balsamic dipping stuff you want. Want to know just how good it really is? On one visit, I’m sitting there with my camera in the saddle bag of my motorcycle parked just outside the window, and some guy comes in and says, “Stefano, I got a buck, dude! Come out and see it!!!” As they go out front, I’m thinking about the cool shots I could compose if I could talk the hunter into taking the deer out of the truck and propping him up on the seat of my brother’s bike (a massive, 2300cc chunk o’ steel  known as the Triumph Rocket III) while my brother lies inert under the front wheel of the red British behemoth. I’m starting to get motivated to put some effort into picture-taking, but then I look back down at that rib eye and decide that nothing is gonna pry me away from it. It was that good.

At Cucina Italiana you get just the right level of attentiveness from Chef Stefano and his friendly, knowledgeable business partner, Sharyn Simmons. I am telling you, I have never been disappointed by anything I have eaten at Cucina Italiana. Let the crotch-rocket riders patronize those places farther south and east—all they need is bread, sandwich meat, and beer and then they’re off on their next double yellow line scofflaw Team Berryessa adventure, like a flock of angry, buzzing mosquitoes. You want real food? Go see Chef Stefano.

Cucina Italiana
4310 Knoxville-Berryessa Rd.

Lake Berryessa, CA 94558


GPS coordinates 
38°32.01 N, 122°13.62′ W

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