Risibisi Italian Restaurant: Reviews

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Matthew Eshoo
Name: Matthew
Occupation: Real Estate Appraiser
Location: Rohnert Park
Favorite Restaurant: Risibisi Italian Restaurant
Reviewed Risibisi Italian Restaurant: Monday, May 30, 2011


Risibisi restaurant is located in the historic downtown area of West Petaluma. It is located in an area of charming shops, many close to the Petaluma River. This is a great area to stroll, window shop, catch a movie, and, of course, dine. Risibisi, through their chef Giuliana Valesi, offers authentic Italian dining that is worth a drive from out of town.

I first went to Risibisi four years ago and immediately felt at home. My wife Kate and I had spent the past several years vacationing for weeks at a time in Italy, and had come to love the Italian way of dining and relaxing.

About a year ago, the charismatic owner, Marco Palmieri, found Chef Giuliana Valesi, and immediately hired her to run his kitchen. Valesi has spent the past forty years in the kitchen – twenty years in Italy and twenty years here in the United States. In an age of loud, celebrity chefs, the reserved Valesi believes in letting the food’s natural flavors speak for themselves. With an ever-changing menu that varies by season, her dishes are simple and flavorful and utilize natural ingredients at every opportunity. Her pastas and breads are made fresh on site every day, and she includes many vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu. This seasonal, fresh emphasis, combined with Palmieri’s thirty years of working the front end of restaurants, creates a wonderfully authentic Italian dining experience.

Kate and I have come to know most of the wait staff by name, which is easy to do since they are always so friendly. On our most recent visit, the wine steward, Jacob Gamba, suggested a glass of Italian Champagne or Prosecco, as we settled into our seats and, once again, felt at home with the brick walls, original Italian artwork, and glow from the onyx bar. We sipped our drinks and talked about the day’s events. Risibisi has a relaxing ambiance, and once you sit down to dine, no one rushes you. It’s the perfect place to have a two-, three-, or even four-hour dinner.

After decompressing, we ordered appetizers. To start things off, Jacob recommended the la burrata. This is a creamy type of mozzarella served with toasted baguette. Burrata must be extremely fresh and used within 48 hours of opening. The cheese, made in Italy by adding cream, was quite simply the best cheese I have ever tasted. I could not believe how light and fresh it tasted. The portion was so generous that I had to ask for more toast. Kate’s reaction was filled with even more praise than mine. This simply is a must-try dish that everyone should have at least once in their life.

Kate also ordered the Trio di Bruschetta Risibisi. This is a plate of three different bruschettas, each with unique and outstanding flavors. There was one with a sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese, another with wild mushroom and balsamic, and finally a grilled pear and Gorgonzola cheese. Kate was in heaven. She absolutely loved this dish and commented that each was outstanding and offered wonderfully different flavors. I ordered the cozze all marinara, or bowl of steamed mussels. This was served in a white wine, garlic, and spicy tomato sauce, and was cooked to perfection. The mussels were flavorful and the broth had the perfect balance of tomato and hot spice. I scooped up every last drop of the broth.

We next decided to share a salad and ordered the organic beet salad. This dish came with roasted beets, arugula, goat cheese, and a balsamic reduction dressing. The beets were tender and had a very fresh taste and were complemented by the fresh goat cheese. My mouth was happy. I actually could feel my energy level increase as I ate this dish. Kate loved it too and remarked at the freshness of the goat cheese.

For Kate’s main course, she ordered the anatra all’Arancio, or breast of duck. The duck, which is from Petaluma, was moist and tasty, and it had an orange brandy sauce that really complemented the meat. On the side was an incredible veggie soufflé. This unique side dish raised the bar for sides. It was warm and light and was half orange and half green.

For my main course, I ordered the wild boar and gnocchi. This is a hearty dish that any man would love. The meat was slow roasted and fell apart in my mouth. There was no gamey taste, but rather a savory meat and tomato flavor. The gnocchi was made fresh and was not lumpy or hard, but rather very light and melted into the meat flavors. I loved this comforting dish and left my plate clean.

For dessert we enjoyed a chocolate mousse with fresh fruit and Illy brand coffees. Illy is considered by many as the finest coffee in Italy and served at the choicest restaurants. The Illy coffee has that true Italian coffee flavor that is rare in the United States.

We lingered for another hour and relaxed and talked. We finally asked for our bill and the total for this large meal, with drinks, tip, and tax was $138.40. We then strolled around the downtown area under the stars. I highly recommend this restaurant.


Nino Manuel
Name: Nino
Occupation: Systems Engineer
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Grand Oaks Restaurant and Sports Lounge
Reviewed Risibisi Italian Restaurant: Sunday, May 29, 2011


You can include some of your comments from the original application form and add fun anecdotes or the disastrous details of your dining experience. Don’t be afraid to include information on the journey, parking and the neighborhood. Also think about whether you would return to the restaurant or recommend it to friends.

It was harder for me to convince friends to accompany me to this restaurant, because it was an hour away h, however I got several to agree after watching a movie. I made reservations for 8:00 PM. The restaurant is open from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Sundays. We drove up to Petaluma from Oakland, which took a little under an hour. Most of us have never been to Petaluma and we were surprised at how nice the downtown area looked, and Risibisi was pretty easy to find. We had to make a couple trips around the block to find parking.

We arrived fifteen minutes early, and had to wait by the door for several minutes. There was no concierge, and at first it didn’t look like anyone was going to seat us. There was a man that may have been the sommelier, and he was the only one not wearing the black shirt and tie. He approached us after he filled a table’s decanter and apologized for the wait. I told him that we were early, but asked if it was okay to seat us. There was a group of four just leaving, and he seated us after their table was cleaned.

As soon as we were seated, we were told of the items that they had run out of. One of the items happened to be what caught my attention immediately, which was the pan-seared Petaluma duck breast with orange-brandy herb sauce, and a vegetable soufflé. He left, and we waited for several minutes before one of the black-shirt waiters gave us more menus. My friends and I were debating on what to order, but our waiter again took a while to get back to us, so we had time to decide on appetizers, our individual entrées, and dessert.

Our waiter came and took our orders. We asked to start with the Triple Risibisi Bruschetta (not called exactly that) and organic baby spinach salad with caramelized onions, pecans, goat cheese, and a balsamic reduction. The Triple Risibisi Bruschetta consisted of a mushroom-topped bruschetta, one with goat cheese and smeared with sundried tomatoes, and the third had some other cheese. There were four of us, so not all of us were able to taste each bruschetta, but we all liked what each of us were able to taste. The spinach salad was also very good. The goat cheese was actually deep fried, and it was great. The balsamic reduction was also done just right; it was sweet but not too overpowering. We were able to savor each ingredient from the salad. Both starters tasted great, and I expected our entrées to be even better.

Before our entrées arrived, they had started us off with some bread and bruschetta with tapenade, which was very good. The saltiness of the tapenade was a good balance with the natural sweetness of the bread. It was a great introduction to what we were about to get.

Our entrées consisted of gnocchi with pesto sauce, the house-made ravioli of the day, four Sonoma lamb chops with port balsamic reduction and roasted potatoes, and I ordered the gnocchi with wild boar sauce. My friend, who ordered the lamb, and I asked the waiter which wine would complement our meal. He recommended a couple of reds, the Bartolino for my friend, and the Primitivo for me. Our service seemed to have gotten better. Our waters were refilled in a timely manner, and our entrées came within a reasonable time.

We tasted each other’s entrées, and I found the ravioli stuffing to be a bit too sweet for my taste and didn’t like it. My other friend’s gnocchi was light and fluffy. The pesto sauce was good, but nothing to go crazy about. My gnocchi had the same consistency as my friend’s, but I thought the sauce tasted a lot like SpaghettiOs, and my friends agreed. I’m not saying that SpaghettiOs are bad, that’s just what the dish reminded me of. I did finish my dish, and it went well with the recommended wine. My friend’s lamb was probably the best entrée of the four. The asparagus was cooked well, and the lamb was tender and not gamey at all. His dish was not perfect though; the roasted potatoes were so hard that you could hear us gnawing on them. The entrées did not impress us. We ordered our desserts and were almost disappointed again.

The waiter told us that they might be out of the flourless chocolate pot de crème. He went to the back to go ask and he returned stating that there were two left. We told him that we wanted both and not to let anyone else order it. Our waiter arrived with the soufflés, and he assisted us by using two little spoons to crack open the soufflés while we poured the cream. We asked if we could have vanilla ice cream to go along with our dessert, and he brought out two vanilla gelatos in martini glasses. The soufflés were great, although we all thought they were supposed to be warm, but we found them to be cold. We later learned that the cream was too cold and that was what cooled down the soufflé. They did go well with the gelato. We finished the soufflé, and you could hear us scraping the bottom of the bowls. It was the perfect closer to the not so impressive entrées.

While waiting to pay our check, we were commenting on the atmosphere. The place was dimly lit, and there were little chairs hanging on the ceiling. There were original artworks on the wall that were also for sale. We agreed that the place was good, and the price was very reasonable for the portions we received, however the one-hour excursion to Petaluma was not worth the trip to Risibisi.


Alexia Smith-Payne
Name: Alexia
Occupation: Elections Technician Supervisor
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: The Elite Cafe
Reviewed Risibisi Italian Restaurant: Thursday, June 2, 2011


We visited Risibisi on a Thursday night with a 8 PM reservation. Having never visited the town of Petaluma, we took time to sightsee while looking for a parking space. Risibisi is located in downtown Petaluma. Parking wasn’t easy, but we arrived a half an hour early for our reservation. Once arriving at the restaurant, we were able to get a table right away. I really loved the decor of the restaurant: beautiful hardwood floors, wooden tables, and a giant mirror with antique framing. The tables were situated a little closer together than I would prefer. Fortunately for us, the table next to us had a great conversation going on between what appeared to be lifelong friends.

The restaurant was about half full when we arrived. The noise level was pleasant for such a small space. We started out with the carpaccio. It was yummy. The dish was really flavorful. The beef was marinated beautifully with a vinagrette and paired with fresh arugula and capers. There were also lemon slices included to add a little zest. For my main entree, I ordered gnocchi with pesto. The pesto had a nice mild flavor and was not overwhelming. Unfortunately, the gnocchi was slightly grainy. Overall, while I enjoyed the pesto, the gnocchi fell flat. Also, the dish needed something to bring it up a notch flavor-wise. A Bam! factor. I grabbed a bite of my sweetheart’s main entree, pollo Milanese. At first bite, I realized I had ordered the wrong dish! The chicken was cooked to perfection, as were the roasted potatoes that came along with it. The service was decent. Nothing special. Our server didn’t introduce himself as our server, but we assumed that was his identity, since he was wearing black and white attire and conveniently carrying a notepad.

In summary, I am glad I got the chance to visit Risibisi and the town of Petaluma. I, more than likely, will not visit Risibisi in the future. The food was good, but not amazing enough to justify the hour and a half distance from my home.

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