Split second

A pesto elk chop is served with a side of spaghetti in a mushroom marinara sauce at Chop 40 in Verdi.

A pesto elk chop is served with a side of spaghetti in a mushroom marinara sauce at Chop 40 in Verdi.

PHOTO/ALLISON YOUNG

Chop 40 is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Learn more at chop40.com.

Chop 40 is the latest incarnation of a rustic-themed restaurant in Verdi, and I’m pleased to say the new owners have a done a nice job sprucing up the digs, menu and service. I made a reservation for our large group of adults and kids, and the staff was very accomodating.

The kids ordered mozzarella sticks ($6), chicken wings with C40 sauce ($10 for 10), chicken tenders ($7) and sliders ($7). The latter two came with fries. The fried cheese sticks were battered and served with a decent garlic-and-herb marinara sauce for dipping. The wings were juicy and crisp. The sauce was a good blend of sweet and spicy. The tenders were surprisingly juicy, and the sliders came on housemade rolls.

The adults ordered fried elote balls ($7)—bite-sized fritters of roasted corn, five cheeses, garlic, onion, lime and cilantro. They came with sour cream and lemon dipping sauce. The flavors were reminiscent of Mexican street food corn-on-the-cob. Next up was an order of fresh chicharrones ($5), crispy pork rinds, served with a sauce of vinegar, shoyu and onion. The pig chips made a fun crackling sound when dipped. Three bacon and Brussels sprouts skewers ($9) followed, with crispy bacon, roasted sprouts and garlic cloves—drizzled with balsamic glaze. Even the little guys liked these.

Moving to large plates, we ordered a house salad of mixed greens, veggies and feta, with wood-fired chicken breast and house ranch ($10). Both the meat and dressing were overpowered by dried tarragon, and the cheese was missing in action. Hansi’s fries ($12) were much better—a pile of shoestring potatoes and smoky, glazed pulled pork topped melted cheddar and fresh jalapeño. A chorizo burger with a side of coleslaw ($12) featured a large handmade sausage patty on a potato bun with lettuce, tomato and onion. The burger was fine, though the coleslaw could have used more seasoning. It was basically wet cabbage with a hint of vinegar.

Because we couldn’t decide between the two, we ordered a pair of 14-inch pizzas ($20 each), including the Blue Hawaiian, with marinara, mozzarella, ham and pineapple; and the Yeti, with barbecue sauce, mozzarella, pulled pork, chorizo and red onion. Each was finished with blue cheese and banana pepper, and both were fantastic—with thin crusts and chewy edges.

Despite having plenty of food to share between us, I felt we’d be remiss not to try the day’s special, a pesto elk chop with side of spaghetti ($32). The grilled chop was huge and done a perfect medium rare, topped with shredded parmesan and a really nice housemade pesto. I savored every delicious bite. The pasta was fine, tossed in a mushroom marinara—simple, yet effective. The meal came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which I let the kids share.

Although I was too full for dessert, the ladies and kids outvoted me, and I’m glad they did. Servings of cheesecake ($6 each)—both plain and drizzled in caramel—were textbook examples of the classic. But they were completely outshone by Grandma Daisy’s cast iron cookie with ice cream ($7). It comes with a choice of either caramel or chocolate sauce; the kids of course said, “both, please.” An adorable little skillet is filled with chocolate chip cookie dough that’s baked and served hot and gooey, ala mode. No matter how full you are, don’t leave without it.