Molto bene

Chico’s newest Italian restaurant serves up traditional fare in a warm environment

Owner/chef Mark Panighetti presents a grilled salmon dish.

Owner/chef Mark Panighetti presents a grilled salmon dish.

Photo By kyle delmar

Panighetti’s Eatery
2760 The Esplanade, 809-1640, Open daily, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (till 9 p.m. Friday & Saturday). Sunday brunch served 9 a.m. -2 p.m.

As my boyfriend and I left a friend’s house on the north end of Chico, we noticed a recently finished strip mall with a new eatery called Panighetti’s. We had just been talking about the lack of options when it comes to affordable, good Italian food in town, so we quickly pulled into the parking lot to give the place a shot.

Inside, the dark wood décor gave the restaurant a warm, sophisticated feel. A handful of booths lined the wall to the left, and we were quickly escorted to a table nearby. I excitedly scanned the simple menu, eager to try out a potential new date-night spot. The fare is what one could expect from an Italian restaurant—pizza, pasta and a handful of entrées including chicken parmesan and shrimp scampi. And the prices were reasonable.

I ordered the fettuccini alfredo with shrimp ($10.95 plus $2.50 for the shrimp), and my boyfriend ordered a small All Meat Pie ($13.95), a pizza covered with pepperoni, sausage, ham, linguisa and salami. Once again, service was fast and friendly. On this Saturday night, the dining room was full, a strong indication that the food would be good.

Indeed it was good, but not great. My fettuccini came out beautiful, the shrimp plump and flavorful. There was something odd about this dish, however. After a few bites of the pasta I was able to put my finger on it: There was way too much garlic, and it was raw. There was so much raw garlic, in fact, that every bite I took was crunchy. The flavor of the alfredo was overpowered, and although I still enjoyed my meal, the crunchiness left quite a bit to be desired.

The pizza, on the other hand, was near perfection. The only thing keeping it from a five out of five, my boyfriend told me, was that there was too much cheese and not quite enough sauce. Even so, he’d place it in his top three pizzas in Chico.

I have returned two times since what I now call the garlic incident, which was too bizarre for me to believe that’s the way they serve their fettuccini alfredo all the time. While waiting for my takeout order to retry the dish, I chatted up one of the owners at the bar. A pleasant fellow, he explained how the restaurant, opened last December, is family owned and operated and how he plans to launch specials during football season. I was happy to find, upon arriving home, that the fettuccini alfredo was not covered in crunchy garlic this time. Pure deliciousness.

My final stop was during lunch—another takeout adventure, this time to try the lasagna ($10.95). Inside, the restaurant was buzzing with patrons busily eating their yummy-looking sandwiches and salads. A few outdoor tables were also full. The lasagna—I just had to try something with red sauce—was piled high with noodles, meat, ricotta and a hearty meat sauce, which was also poured around the bottom of the dish. Very good.

Panighetti’s may still be ironing out a few kinks, but something tells me I’ll be going back for more of their reasonably priced, hearty Italian food. A new place for date night, indeed.