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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

Ettore's European Bakery & Restaurant

This is what perfection looks like.

Ettore's European Bakery & Restaurant
2376 Fair Oaks Boulevard
Sacramento, CA

Visits to Ettore’s always present me with culinary dilemmas: Special of the Day or Ettore’s Award-Winning Hamburger on their Cheddar Scallion Bun?  Single-serving dessert, or cake for eight?  Table seating, or a counter spot facing the kitchen that will make me crave every damn thing coming out of that kitchen?

No matter the choice, the result will be the same: full belly, guaranteed satisfaction, and pure guilt until my next stint on the treadmill.

One of the few authentic European-style bakeries in the area, Ettore’s is a go-to destination if you’re looking for decadent desserts made with the highest quality ingredients.  From eclairs to cookies to princess cakes and seasonal offerings, each is made with exceptional attention to detail.  Glossy fruit tarts behind the pastry case look magazine-ready.  Anything with chocolate is superbly rich and dark, but not overly sugary.

The same care is taken on the restaurant side.  Offering one of the better Caesar salads in Sacramento, Ettore’s version is a meal in itself if you consume the accompanying basket of fresh-baked bread (good enough not to share).  The aforementioned Award-Winning Hamburger is legendary, and cooked to rare perfection if requested.  That seasoned patty, juicy and dripping from a housemade bun will put others to shame.

Come for the gourmet restaurant fare, stay for the wildly unique dessert selections.  You can work it all off tomorrow.

Petra Greek

Gym cheat days are the BEST.

Petra Greek
1122 16th Street
Sacramento, CA

Friday night's spontaneous midnight trip to Petra Greek was likely one of the best life decisions I've made.  Ever.  EVER.

At 12am, huge portions of meat were still being broiled to perfection, veggies were being chopped, and flatbread warmed to the ideal temperature.  When it all came together, it was nothing less than bliss.  I wanted that damn gyro to last forever.

A packed house with a steady flow of customers indicated to me that I'd stumbled onto something special.  I'd be willing to walk through blocks of drunken douchebags for a single gyro.  That's a bold statement for an old hag like me.

Pasquale's Italian Pizzeria

Ravioli, come to mama.
Pasquale's Italian Pizzeria
7600 Fair Oaks Boulevard
Carmichael, CA
Pasquale's Italian Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

I am a HUGE fan of Angelina's Spaghetti House in Stockton.  For the most part, I try to avoid other Italian restaurants because I end up predictably disappointed (case in point, Galt’s Wholey Ravioli).

However, I’ve finally found a gem in the Sacramento area.  Pasquale's, you are one of my new favorites.

The place was packed on a Friday night, always a good sign, and tabletops were overloaded with giant, blistery pizzas, bubbly baked pasta dishes, and baskets of huge breadsticks atop red and white checkered tablecloths...more good signs.

My buddy and I ordered the half order of breadsticks, all buttery and made even more delicious when dipped into a generous cup of marinara sauce.  His Manicotti with Italian Sausage Sauce was OUTSTANDING, and the side of two oversized meatballs are beyond description (but I'll attempt anyway): meaty, not overspiced, and super tender.

I ordered the special, Spinach Ravioli, which arrived in a pool of Pesto Cream Sauce.  I'm telling you, it was probably one of the best ravioli dishes I've ever had.  The basil wasn't overpowering, and there was just enough salty cheese to complement the tender pillows of pasta.  Phenomenal.

This place is a must-try if you're ever in the Carmichael area!

Piaci Pub & Pizzeria

Menu, schmenu.  Ask the bartenders for suggestions.

Piaci Pub & Pizzeria
120 W. Redwood Avenue
Fort Bragg, CA
Piaci Pub & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Dubbed “Home of the Adult Pizza”, Piaci is the perfect neighborhood joint where you can take a date, meet your bros, or pick up a takeout order of some pretty phenomenal pizzas and salad.  Leave the kids at home, because that’s why men go to bars in the first place.

A wide variety of beers are poured by knowledgeable bartenders who sure as hell know how to make dinner suggestions, too.  Ten minutes were spent reading and re-reading the menu trying to make a decision until I heard one bartender offer another diner the option to order a half-and-half pie.  That’s the route we ended up taking.

Not long thereafter, it arrived: half Farmers and half Rosa, on a thin, crisp crust all blistered and smoky from the heavenly oven beside the old Italian in the kitchen who’d been twirling dough since we’d shown up.  The Farmers half was decadent with its fennel-rich sausage, caramelized onions and mozzarella; the Rosa was lighter and sweeter with Canadian ham, Roma tomatoes and mozzarella.  The entire pizza was complemented by a perfectly thin layer of tomato sauce and herbs, allowing the crunchy crust and toppings to shine through unlike so many inferior pizzas swimming in sauce these days.

At the end of our meal, we were sated and surrounded by the sounds of Tears for Fears.  Head over heels?  Yep.

Chicago Fire

This will be the longest 45-minute wait of your life.

Chicago Fire
Various Locations
Folsom, Sacramento and Roseville, CA
Chicago Fire Pizza on Urbanspoon

I’ve dined at three of the four Chicago Fire locations more times than I care to admit to my personal trainer.  I go for intimate casual meals and celebrations with friends, and it’s also my venue of choice when planning work events.  Have they ever let me down?  Nope. 

I’d been searching for authentic Chicago-style pizza here on the west coast ever since I spent two consecutive college summers interning in the windy city.  Chicago Fire’s decadent Stuffed Pizzas are the closest I've had to Giordano's, the mother of all Chicago pizza joints; I no longer have to mail-order bricks of frozen meat, cheese and dough to satisfy my frequent cravings.

Stuffed Pizzas are hefty and can take up to 45 minutes to cook.  Plan accordingly.  Chicago Fire offers plenty of delicious salads, incredible wings and an extensive beer, wine and cocktail list to keep you occupied.  You can even order a thin-crust pizza (I recommend the Traditional) to snack on which bakes in a fraction of the time.  Pre-pizza pizza?  Yes, please.

I always, order two stuffed pies in particular: the meaty Chicago Fire Combo, and the lighter (ha!) Spinach & Mushroom.  You may be asking, what is a stuffed pizza?  Well, you take heavy, high-rimmed pizza pans large enough to bake wedding cake tiers and line it with dough.  Add your toppings, another layer of dough, THEN top it with chunky marinara.  Bake.  Devour.  Roll eyes to the back of your head.
Here’s a tip: these slices are tall and rich with high-quality ingredients.  When the menu says a small stuffed pizza will feed 2-3 people, BELIEVE IT.

Stefano's - Two Guys From Italy

Time for my 9am feeding!

Stefano's - Two Guys From Italy
6705 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA

The only way I justified following up a 1,000-calorie cupcake breakfast with a slice of New York-style pizza was the fact that I was about to hop onto a double-decker bus for a two-hour tour of L.A.  And last time I checked, those contraptions didn't sell food, right?

For a couple of bucks, they threw a substantial slice of cheese into the oven to warm up.  In the meantime, they graciously tossed me a token so I could use the ladies room.  Adorable!

By the time I was finished with my bid-ness, I was presented Breakfast 2.0 consisting of a crispy and chewy crust that supported a tasty cheese blend, oil glistening and ready to be blotted with at least a dozen napkins.  Best buy along the Hollywood Walk of Fame for sure...I'll just skip the cupcake next time.

Rose Pistola

Get your own!
Rose Pistola
532 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Rose Pistola on Urbanspoon

All I'm saying is, if you don't order the Zucchini Chips, you're a damn fool. Same goes for the Asparagus Pizza with Blue Cheese and Truffle Oil. And the Chopped Salad with Point Reyes Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. AND the Chocolate Budino or whatever's it's called.

I usually can't stand it when a server says I "have to try XYZ" because "it's amazing".  Normally, I just order something completely opposite to annoy him/her.  But, this chick was SPOT ON when she suggested "the most amazing French Toast".

She was right.  I was the jerk.  Damn it.

Monsieur Marcel

Good luck topping this!

Monsieur Marcel
6333 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA

A small part of me wishes I never found this place.  Why?  On one hand, they have THE BEST soup I've ever tasted.  On the other hand, it's 372 miles from my front door.  Cue the violins.

A myriad of dining options awaits you at the famous Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax.  In fact, I circled the market twice before choosing Monsieur Marcel.  Small plates of cheese and cured meats seemed a fitting snack since my evening plans involved copious amounts of Mexican seafood.  Of course, the intention to enjoy a light snack all went to hell when I saw French Onion Soup on the menu.

For me, this particular soup begs to be ordered and judged against every other version I've sampled.  Prior to this visit, my all-time favorite came from La Bonne Soup Cafe in Sacramento; however, when the first spoonful reached my lips, I wanted to weep a tear for La Bonne.  Theirs had been outdone.

A rich, complex broth chock full of sweet onion slices was concealed by a single floating crouton underneath a blanket of oozing cheese, the outside of which had bits charred ever so slightly to enhance its salty, nutty flavor.  Sheer heaven.  I chose not to taint my palate with any sort of flavored beverage or even the bread loaf I had been attacking prior to the arrival of this delicious crock of nirvana.

Hours later, I annihilated a grilled lobster and its accoutrements.  But, I will always remember the most perfect bowl of soup, and will rarely visit L.A. without a visit to Monsieur Marcel.  Believe it.

Solvang Brewing Company

Three for me, none for you!

Solvang Brewing Company
1547 Mission Drive
Solvang, CA
Solvang Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Nothing cures an Aebleskiver overdose like some salty logs...am I right, ladies?

After a morning of fudge samples and pastry balls, I needed something savory.  Being a chick obliges me to order mass quantities of cheese any time it's on a menu, so Pretzels with Ale Fondue were in my immediate future.

Melted cheese is good, but combined with beer, it's GREAT.  The perfect foil to chewy soft pretzels rolled in salt, the fondue was rich without making me feel as gluttonous as I should have.  Spicy mustard provided a kick and rounded out this classic bar snack.

I left with the full intent of walking off the last few hours' calories.  Unfortunately, Olsen's Bakery was beckoning me next.  Dammit.

Yasoo Yani Restaurant

Bring your vehicle to a screeching halt!

Yasoo Yani Restaurant
326 E. Main Street
Stockton, CA
Yasoo Yani Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I grew up in Stockton, yet patronized this establishment for the very first time only recently.


To be fair, it's downtown...off of a main thoroughfare...and I never knew it existed.  My cousin knows a few people who work there, and swore by the food.  I thought to myself, what does a 25-year old know about Greek food?

A lot, as it turned out.

Gyro Sandwich?  Amazing.  Perfect amounts of everything: just enough tsaziki, diced tomato, lamb...not a morsel left on the plate.  I stole a bite of my coworker's Moussaka and it was well-seasoned, hearty and served with fresh sauteed vegetables.

Great service, comfy atmosphere, and very generous prices.  I'll be back soon.

Solvang Restaurant

They taste even better than they look!

Solvang Restaurant
1672 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA
Solvang Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It's pretty easy to determine what is sold here.  It's on the wall's menu, it's painted on the window, and it's found in 90% of customers' hands: 3 Aebleskiver with Powdered Sugar and Jam.  It wasn't even until I returned home from my trip that my photos indicated other delicacies like Medisterpolse (Danish sausage) are also sold.

Half the fun is watching these Danish pastries being made by a young woman who constantly turns rows and rows of batter in specially-shaped pans to achieve the desired spherical shape.  When done, they are doused in raspberry jam and finished with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

The balls of awesomeness are tender, like pancakes, with a slightly crisp exterior that allows them to hold up to the toppings.  Still warm, they melt in your mouth.  I sat on a nearby bench and watched as droves swarmed in to form a line that started snaking along the walk-up window.

Although it wasn't particularly breezy that day, I managed to get powdered sugar all over myself.  Etiquette classes may be in order.

Angelina's Spaghetti House

The entrance...to heaven.

Angelina's Spaghetti House
1563 E. Fremont Street
Stockton, CA
Angelinas Spaghetti House on Urbanspoon

Ah, Angelina's.  A staple of my youth.  A staple of my adulthood.  And eventually, a staple of my twilight years.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm only 30-ish, for crying out loud!

At Angelina's, you'll start by eating a couple loaves of complimentary garlic bread - on your own.  Believe it!

Their salad bar is the standard by which I compare all others.  Greens are always crisp, mushrooms and red onions are always fresh, and they never run out of bleu cheese dressing.  On Fridays, they add bay shrimp and imitation crabmeat to the salad bar.  It is damn good.

The Friday lunch buffet is the best deal around.  I always, always, always get the Fettucine Alfredo because it's the best I've ever had. Seriously!  The Lasagna and Ravioli are pretty spectacular as well.

The next time I'm there I want to meet the owner or head chef just to tell him/her how happy he/she has made me over the years.  Is that too stalker-ish?

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