Occupation: Football Coach and CEO
Favorite Restaurant: Sapore Italiano Ristorante
Reviewed Sapore Italiano Ristorante: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sapore Italiano Ristorante is a journey into Southern Italy. Italian food, Italian owners, Italian chefs, and Italian waiters, all in an Italian setting. Sapore is located at the west end of Burlingame Avenue just off El Camino Real. There is ample parking on Burlingame Avenue in the parking area at the corner of El Camino, and behind the restaurant in the large parking lot that services the back entrances to Sapore and the adjoining businesses. The outside tables welcome customers into the attractive front bar area that serves the full assortment of adult beverages and is a nightly seating alternative to table dining. The main room feels like you have stepped into a European locale and the downstairs walls have large unique amusing photos that display the Italian attitude. The tables on the balcony overlook the main room and provide a view of the entire restaurant in a more private setting. The upstairs main room accommodates large groups of 50 or more and can be reserved for private affairs.
Sapore was created and is owned by four friends, all born in Italy. Together they have a combination of over one hundred years of restaurant experience. Elio and Massimo greet and take you into the Italian experience and introduce a menu of wonderful Southern Italian recipes, expertly seasoned, that satisfy all things Italian. Chefs Mario and Angelo, both trained in Italy, manage a kitchen that delivers great food made only from fresh ingredients and prepared in the old world style. Executive chef Mario, developed his culinary expertise at the Palermo Culinary Institute in Sicily. He and chef Angelo present great tasting servings that make you want to come back.
“Sapore” means flavor, and this is what this authentic Italian ristorante is all about. We were introduced to our meal with a basket of fresh bread, baked in the restaurant daily and an onion and caper olive oil dip. Our waiter, Maurizio, poured the Chianti Classico we chose from the ample wine list of Italian and domestics. Our group started our meal with a plate of antipasto delle due Sicilie, a combination of antipasti dishes prepared for four. The arrangement consisted of caprese (fresh mozzarella and tomato), caponata (a mixture of eggplant and onions on toasted bread), prosciutto (thin sliced ham), bruschetta (chopped tomatoes on bread) and crostini di salmone (smoked salmon with mascarpone cheese). The soup of the day was their minestrone made of homemade broth and chopped fresh vegetables and is different from the typical canned versions.
The signature dishes of Sapore are their pastas. There are eight choices on their menu, and they will put a different sauce on the pasta of your choice if that is your preference. We each chose a different pasta dish so we could sample their different tastes. One was Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes. We also had Gnocchi di Patate al Gorgonzola, homemade potato dumplings in a gorgonzola and parmesan cheese sauce, Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci — homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese in a light tomato sauce — and lastly Fettuccine Bolognese, their homemade fettuccine with a tomato meat sauce. We also sampled a side dish that is served on their lunch menu, Parmiggiana di Melanzane, eggplant with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. I ordered this for our party to taste, having had it for lunch at a prior visit. It is delicious and our group agreed.
Our desserts were also shared. They consisted of tiramisu which is made fresh daily with ladyfingers soaked in a morning brew of espresso with mocha flavored whipped cream and mascarpone. Sapore’s tiramisu will meet the taste challenge of any other similar recipe. Affogato al Caffe is their artisan gelato with espresso and Semifreddo alla Nocciola is a homemade ice cream with caramelized hazelnuts and chocolate sauce. Another way to enjoy the assortment is to order the Dolce del Sapore, a plate of various desserts.
Sapore also has pizza, chicken, veal, prawns, and salmon entrees. They serve a unique Sacchetto Vegetariano, a homemade stuffed pasta with fresh vegetables, mozzarella, and a light tomato cream sauce. Chef Mario’s wife is vegan and he is familiar to the alternative needs for those with diet restrictions and will accommodate accordingly. Gluten-free and other substitute pastas are available.
Cafe Sapore, a combination espresso bar and café, recently opened four blocks away serving breakfast, lunch, and take out dinners. Fresh pastas and sauces can be picked up and quickly prepared in your own kitchen. A 3 minute boil of your pasta and heating of your sauce of choice provides a ready to eat meal at home. An assortment of sandwiches, panini, salads, and daily specials can be enjoyed on site or brought home as take out. A variety of homemade artisan gelato is made daily. More than one visit is required to fully enjoy the variety of great choices of each course at Sapore Italiano and Cafe Sapore. With two locations close to each other to service their customers, Sapore Italiano is expanding its family of satisfied patrons.
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Favorite Restaurant: Gather
Reviewed Sapore Italiano Ristorante: Friday, July 29, 2011
My husband and I arrived in Burlingame a bit early for our 8 p.m. reservation. We had good parking karma and found a place almost right in front of the restaurant. So far so good. The atmosphere was lively, and the bar on the way in was busy. The hostess grabbed a couple of menus and was about to seat us but halted in her tracks as the table was apparently usurped by another party. She apologized and said it would be about ten more minutes, so we decided to sit at the bar and have a drink. I ordered a Campari and soda, which turned out to be more ice and soda than Campari and settled in to wait.
When the hostess came to get us, she apologized profusely for the delay. We were then seated upstairs in the back room which was about half full. I was a bit disappointed, as you definitely would want to be seated in the downstairs dining room where the overall ambiance was superior to upstairs. By this time it was a about 8:30. A busboy brought over some sliced white French bread and a small container of sun-dried tomato tapenade and then we waited 15 more minutes for someone to come and take our order. The 2 waitresses that busily worked the room studiously avoided meeting our eyes and then finally the gentlemen who seemed to be playing host downstairs (he might have been the owner) came and asked if our order was taken. I told him no one had been by yet, and he proceeded to take our order himself.
We decided to share 4 dishes and leave room for dessert. We ordered the Caesar salad, the carpaccio Veneto, the pizza margherita, and the tagliatelle with rock shrimp. The Caesar salad and the carpaccio Veneto were served post haste. By this time, I was not having that great of a dining experience. The wait seemed a bit too long and the bread (and I must admit that to me the bread served at a restaurant sets a fairly good predictor of what is to come) was an unexciting white loaf that could have come from the grocery store, and I thought the same of the sun dried tomato tapenade. In fact, I think that most of the ingredients in the meal to come were pre-packaged store-bought. The Caesar salad consisted of small cut up pieces of romaine (reminiscent of packaged salad), the croutons were perfectly uniform and could have been Stouffers or Sara Lee, and the dressing was thick and creamy like mayonnaise and and there was too much of it at that! The carpaccio was dressed with arugula, capers, and a vinegar dressing and a dollop of mustard that I could swear was French’s out of the bottle.
The pizza was served next along with the pasta dish. The pizza wasn’t hot (it was actually cold in places), which made us suspect that it came right from the box into the oven. There were a few unappetizing bites of basil thrown on top, and I couldn’t really tell what kind of cheese was on it — it was white cheese, that’s all I know.
Thankfully the pasta dish was pretty good. It was served hot, which was a big plus, and the rock shrimp tasted fresh. The arugula was a bit soggy, but the sauce didn’t taste too bad.
I think our waiter realized we weren’t that happy with the meal when he returned and found that we had eaten only one slice of the pizza. He took our order for decaf coffee and then came back with a dessert that we hadn’t ordered, a white ice cream cake with drizzles of chocolate sauce across it and the plate. Alas, the cake tasted like frozen non-dairy creamer. It was a nice gesture on his part, but unfortunately it was the icing on the cake of a pretty bad meal. The coffee reminded me of the kind served at the car dealership while you’re waiting to pick up your car. Needless to say, I expected much more from this dining experience and wish I could say something positive about it. But I can’t.
Occupation: Research Scientist
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: DOSA on Fillmore
Reviewed Sapore Italiano Ristorante: Thursday, July 28, 2011
As a lover of all things Italiano, I was looking forward to having a nice dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant. We wanted to like it, but the mediocre food could not overcome the pitiful service we received. On our way to Sapore we encountered traffic, making us slightly late for our 7pm dinner reservation, where my husband and I were meeting his father. Once we arrived, we began our series of dining mishaps. We told our hostess the name of our reservation and that we were party of three, at which she appeared confused and asked if we were actually a party of 7. When we were finally seated, my husband and I noticed our menus were different, adding confusion to our ordering.
For starters, we settled on the polenta con funghi, topped with gorgonzola cheese, which sounded delectable. After about 10 minutes, our waiter came and told us that the polenta takes 15 minutes to bake, to which we said that was fine. After another 5 minutes, our waiter came and apologetically told us that they were actually out of the polenta (perhaps because of our initial menu mix-up?), deeply disappointing us. We decided not to order another appetizer since our entrées were likely to be out any minute. Luckily, in the meantime, we had been munching on the delicious freshly baked bread and a sun-dried tomato oil dip.
The entrées did arrive, and I was pleased to see that the pasta looked freshly made. My husband’s dish, the simple angel hair pasta in marinara, was my favorite dish. The perfectly cooked pasta was harmonious with the tasty sweet tomato sauce. My ravioli were large and the pasta was soft and fresh, but unfortunately, I found the ricotta and spinach filling to be bland and lacking in excitement. Similarly, my father-in-law’s spaghetti aglio e olio, though certainly full of good garlic flavor, seemed to overtly lack any spice from pepper flakes, a signature flavor of the dish.
Throughout the meal, it seemed as though we were being ignored. We watched as waiter after waiter (including our own) passed our table, ignoring water refills, and bypassing any check-ups. My father-in-law had asked for a separate check, since he had to leave and early and skip dessert. We were deeply disappointed when the waiter brought both of us our checks, without having even asked my husband and I if we were ready to cash out or wanted to see a dessert menu. We reasoned that it was a simple misunderstanding and told the waiter that we actually wanted to see the dessert menu. After about 5 minutes, no one had brought us a menu. My waiter returned, appeared confused, blamed “the guy” that he had told to bring us a menu, finally brought us one, and told us our dessert would be complimentary.
We decided on the homemade ice cream with hazelnuts served under chocolate sauce. I had visions of a sumptuous, soft scoop of ice cream with warm chocolate sauce ladled on top. To our surprise, what appeared were loaf-like rectangles of ice cream with barely a drizzle of chocolate. As I dipped my spoon into the ice cream, it was apparent that this was in no way “homemade.” The ice cream was hard, had a freezer-burnt texture and seemed to chip off. There was an almost greasy layer that formed on my lips after tasting the dish, and the specks of hazelnut reminded us the nuts in McDonald’s ice creams. It was, in short, a disaster. Other parties, probably regulars, looked like they were getting better treatment than we were. The Bay Area has too many wonderful Italian restaurants with superior service to ever venture back to Sapore Italiano. Unfortunately, I would not recommend this place to anybody.