New Pinoli Cucina Rustica Restaurant in Guerneville
The new Pinoli Cucina Rustica in Guerneville presents inventive Italian food, such as braised rabbit with olives and thyme served on farinata, a Genoa style chickpea pancake with a distinctive, luscious custardy interior.
But the restaurant, in the luxury Applewood Inn, offers even more inventive service. It employs no front-of-house staff, and its chefs serve guests directly at their tables. All gratuities are then divided equally among the chefs.
The method helps guests interact directly with the chefs, notes Pinoli executive chef-owner Christian Darcoli, and also help the restaurant attract the best kitchen talent, since the tips become an important addition to wages.
Born in the famously gastronomic region of San Remo, Italy, Darcoli is used to thinking outside the box.
At the age of 16, he headed to London to learn English and worked at Marine Ices, one of the oldest and infamous ice cream factories in the world.
From there, he arrivd in the United States as part of a cultural exchange program for chef's at Epcot Center/Disneyworld.
His career took him to New York, back to London working in a Michelin Star restaurant and then finally back in the United States to The White Barn Inn in a training program for the prestigious Relais Chateaux.
Chef Darcoli opened Pinoli Ristorante in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before arriving in Guerneville to open a second location.
Appropriately, the restaurant focuses on ingredients from local farmers, ranchers, foragers and fishermen, with a healthy dose of Italian flair.
A meal might start with grilled grape leaves stuffed with Fontina cheese and vincotto, a dark, sweet, thick paste produced by country people in the Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Apulia, and Marche regions of Italy; and endive leaves dressed with lemon, orange, Taggiasca olives and bottarga, a Sardinian delicacy of salted, cured red mullet roe.
The next course could be guazetto clams fregola with zucchini, in a stew of clam juice with small semolina Sardinian pasta.
For entrees, tempting options include branzino fillets topped in arugula, capers and olives; a twist on a wine country classic of duck breast served over farro with seasonal berries and late harvest wine glaze; or grilled steak Fiorentina, a 30-ounce grass fed Porterhouse for two, grilled Florentine style and served with rosemary potatoes.
Details: 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-604-7609, Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. nightly.
Photos by Jessica Collins Photography.