Food & Drink

Gelatos, cold vegan treats and covered patios

Italians eat ice cream in small portions and look cool doing it, just like Hot Italian employee Joel Gomez.

Italians eat ice cream in small portions and look cool doing it, just like Hot Italian employee Joel Gomez.


Alota gelato

Gelato at Hot Italian

I guess frozen yogurt is the, er, hot new dessert trend. And why not? Any food place that charges you six bucks for ingredients you can get at a grocery store around the corner at a third of the cost is bound to catch on, right? But listen here, tubby: You don’t need those extra Reese’s Pieces calories. So skip the yogurt and six scoops of toppings, and instead, bike down to Hot Italian, where you can get a cup of gelato—and feel super sophisticated—for a few bucks. Hot Italian serves up a bunch of flavors that I’m too lazy to list. You can even order outside at the special window on 16th Street. I guess that’s something Italians do.

1627 16th Street, (916) 444-3000.

True thirst-quenching goodness

Gourmet lemonade

Nothing replenishes the fluids in summer heat like a tall, fresh, icy glass of lemonade. If you’ve got time to make it yourself, start with some good organic lemons, crushed ice and cane sugar. Tasty additions include strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or (pitted) cherries. A nice mocktail would include a bit of crushed mint in the bottom of the glass, and it can always be picked up be deleting the “mock” and adding a shot of decent bourbon. A blender makes it even better, but if you’re feeling Bondish, go for shaken, not stirred. And if you don’t want to do it yourself, try the top-notch gourmet lemonades at Cafeteria 15L, where each glass is made to order, and the berries are so tart and sweet, you’ll have to work to keep your lips from puckering.

Cafeteria 15L, 1116 15th Street; (916) 492-1960;

Brunch with a view

The Ryde Hotel

The Ryde Hotel is renowned for its luxe Sunday brunch featuring berry crêpes, potatoes, scones, fruit, French toast, eggs to order and, of course, mimosas. But if the $28-per-person tab is a bit spendy for your budget, then we suggest you head out to the patio and order off the bar menu, which includes homemade potato chips, Caesar salads and some seriously awesome Bloody Marys. While you’re there, take a stroll around the legendary hotel, which once boasted a bordello and speakeasy. With that, a river view and the famed Delta breeze, what more do you need to feel easy like Sunday morning?

14340 Highway 160 in Walnut Grove; (916) 776-1318;

Summertime’s local artisan beer of choice

Odonata Beer Company’s saison

A little background: Odonata Beer Company, founded in 2009, is the new project of veteran Sacto brewmaster Peter Hoey, who used to brew at Sacramento Brewing Company—RIP—and Rick Sellers, writer and founder of Pacific Brew News. They make Belgian-style ales, and their latest, saison, which I sampled at Raley Field’s Brewfest, is just great. Refreshing. I’m no beer expert, OK, but saisons are traditionally low-alcohol pale ales. Check out Odonata’s blog,, where Hoey and Sellers will go deeper with refined, educated discussion and news regarding art of beer. I’ll stick to just drinking it.

Nosh on this


You’re hungry, but you also feel like getting the heck outta Dodge. When the days are long and the sky seems as though it will always be lit up with sun, we like to hop in the car for a leisurely drive to Granzella’s. The famed restaurant-deli suffered serious damage in a 2007 fire, but the restored digs are as good as ever. Granzella’s serves classic, tasty, made-to-order sandwiches; ice cream by the scoop; an impressive imported beer case; and all the free olives you can dare to taste. Once you’re done noshing, check out Granzella’s mini-emporium, featuring the yummiest in snacks both sweet and savory.

451 Sixth Street in Williams; (530) 473-2545;

Sangria summer

Tapa the World

It’s a well-known fact that Tapa the World has an amazingly extensive list of Spanish and California wines. Although delicious, some of them can set you back a pretty penny—and Sacramentans aren’t exactly made of money these days. But that doesn’t mean forgoing your favorite tapa and hookah joint. The solution: sangria. Tapa the World’s bartenders mix a tasty and refreshing sangria and adorn each glass with succulent fruit. The patio is a lovely place for late-night eats, people watching, hookah smoking and sangria sipping. Plus, it won’t break the bank. Just be prepared to order multiple glasses.

2115 J Street, (916) 442-4353,

Slow-dining extravaganza

Slow Food Yolo

Just when it can’t get any more sweltering in our part of the world, the coolest event of the summer is held for Davisites and their regional foodie buddies. It’s called the Village Feast, wherein Slow Food Yolo presents a slow-dining extravaganza under the sycamore trees in Davis Central Park. Held the last Saturday in August around a giant communal table that seats hundreds, the feast is done in the tradition of a Provençal grand aïoli, with a similar fresh healthy menu and local foods from the bountiful growing fields of Yolo County. Foodies should not miss this must-attend meal.

August 28, at noon; tickets are $55-$75; Davis Central Park, 401 C Street, under the sycamore trees;

Mochii land

Osaka Ya

Osaka Ya is the perfect place to get a massive mound of icy delight on a smolderingly hot Sacramento day. In its store, you can find tons of mochii (I hear the peanut butter and chocolate mochii is top-notch) and other authentic Japanese goodies lined up in a glass case as if they were jewels. Outside the store, under the blue awning, you can pick up a snow cone in whatever flavor you desire, in sizes ranging from big to bucket size. It also offers ice cream, fancy floats and kintoki. The downside is that it’s only open Friday through Sunday.

2215 10th Street, (916) 446-6857.

Enjoy Sunday brunch and the summer heat at Rio City Cafe, without the sunburn.


Dining alfresco

Zócalo and Rio City Cafe

Sometimes it seems like half the restaurant seating in Sacramento is outdoors—a pain when the rain falls mainly on the Valley, but a real treat when warm weather rolls around. We suggest sticking to uncovered patios, like the one at Zócalo, from twilight on. That’s when it’s cool enough to enjoy the night sky, and it’s a great spot to enjoy your dinner while people watching, because all sidewalks lead to Midtown. When that lucky ol’ sun is directly overhead, though, we suggest a covered patio, like the one down at Rio City Cafe in Old Sac. It prevents sunburn, while the river always provides at least a hint of a cooling breeze—and the brunch is worth getting up for on Sunday morning.

Zócalo, 1801 Capitol Avenue; (916) 441-0303;; Rio City Cafe, 1110 Front Street; (916) 442-8226;

Patio for sweltering nights

Bistro 33 in Davis

Those who’ve lived in the college-burg-to-the-west longer than last semester still remember this place as home to crazy, late-night histrionics by the Davis City Council. But now the former site of Davis’ historic City Hall serves as the Haines brothers meticulously renovated Bistro 33. In the scorching summer, the restaurant’s outstanding outdoor patio basically becomes Davis’ front porch, a great place to cool down, have a glass of wine and chill as professors and professionals toodle by on their bikes. Recommended? The Dungeness crab cakes, panini sandwiches and, of course, Bistro 33’s sweet-potato fries.

226 F Street in Davis; (530) 756-4556;

Emergency wine and beer run

58 Degrees & Holding Co.

I’m no booze snob, but usually Keystone doesn’t cut it. That’s why I hit up 58 Degrees: It’s got a fridge loaded with 750-milliliter single beers—artisan Belgian triples, saisons, stouts and more—plus a fleet of wines at varying price points. There are sales often, but, ultimately, it comes down to convenience: 58 Degrees is smack-dab in the middle of the grid, whether you’re stuck in the far reaches of Boulevard Park or heading to West Sac for a barbecue. In your quasi-highfalutin, libation-craving moments, see the number 58.

1217 18th Street, (916) 442-5858,

Cruelty-free junk food

Here’s the Scoop!

Vegans may consume “cruelty-free” edibles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ever jones for junk food. And like their omnivorous kin, a frozen treat on a summer night sounds appealing. There are plenty of frozen-yogurt joints to get a sugar rush from, many of which may have a nondairy option. However, vegheads ought to request to see the ingredient list: Some “nondairy” desserts contain dairy derivatives. Or you could buck the fro-yo trend altogether and get soy ice cream (including shakes and sundaes), fruit freezes, frozen bananas and oh-my-God good housemade chocolate bon bons at Here’s the Scoop!

3051 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 446-4478.

State fair eats you can’t miss

California State Fair (July 14-August 1)

There’s a lot of ground to cover at the California State Fair—both in miles and what you use to refuel between rides and attractions. The following are five not-to-miss meals and drinks—and look, not a single deep-fried Twinkie in the bunch!

Funnel cake. The Funnel Cake Express Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cake is a treat we look forward to each year. Imagine a crispy, wafflelike cake topped with mountains of whipped cream, strawberries and, if you can handle it, chocolate.

Caramel apple sundae. Sometimes we’re forced to search high and low for this simple but sweet treat consisting of sliced Granny Smith apples, hot caramel sauce, chopped peanuts and whipped cream. The hunt is always worth the payoff.

Beer. Really, need we say more? Prices at the state fair wine and beer garden aren’t that cheap, but on a hot summer afternoon, (almost) nothing tastes better than a frosty one, and here you’ll get the chance to check out pale ales, Pilsners and lagers from around the state.

Food on a stick. Corn dogs and corn, deep-fried veggies and slabs of grilled meat—almost any kind of food your hungry little heart desires is available in a convenient to-go format.

Merlino’s Freeze. Sure, Sacramentans can get Merlino’s all summer, but there’s nothing better than an icy blast of fruit freeze to the brain—especially if you’re trying to lobotomize yourself before a ride on the Tornado. 1600 Exposition Boulevard, (916) 263-3247.

When life hands you strawberries, have a jam session

Make your own preserves

Last summer, my landlord Tom was nice enough to gift an entire flat of strawberries from the farmers’ market, just for little ol’ me. Try as I might, I couldn’t get through them. The quest to preserve had begun. For those of you who’ve been scared off by the canning process, try freezer jam instead! It doesn’t require any heating, and you’re exempt from the death-by-marmalade nightmares your grandmother ingrained so deeply. Core and mash the strawberries lightly, mix with lemon juice, add your pectin and sugar, and stir. Jar it up, and you’ve got six months to finish that flat your landlord so thoughtfully brought by. Maybe even gift him right back.

Low-maintenance summer supper

Stuff a sub roll from New Roma Bakery

The sub rolls at New Roma are fresh-baked wonderment, and if you’re a true believer in the staff of life, you may just want to put some butter on it and let it go at that. But seriously, when it’s too hot to cook after work and you really want something light that can be munched down as you head to an evening’s outdoor fun, try loading one of these subs with some fresh veggies and a little Italian dressing. Or throw on some seriously good cheese. Or go ahead and make a traditional sub. Any way you want it, New Roma sub rolls make summer suppers a low-maintenance, stress-free meal—and its cookies are pretty good, too.

1800 E Street, (916) 443-2346; closed Mondays.

Power of the sun

Solar ovens

Remember those aluminum-foil reflectors people used to use in the ’70s to channel UV rays and cook their skin to a crispy orangish brown? Thankfully, in the 21st century, we’re more aware about the dangers of intense sun exposure on our skin. However, that same simple technology can be put to good use—cooking. Solar ovens offer an efficient and cheap way to prepare your favorite summertime meals: kabobs, nachos, Grandma’s chocolate-chip cookies. You can even use them for canning fruit. Be careful, though, because those suckers get crazy hot.

For more information, contact Solar Cookers International, 1919 21st Street; (916) 455-4499;

Your favorite Sacramento summer memory?

SN&R’s Facebook friends respond:

T.J. Lev: The anticipation ofgetting a Merlino’s Orange Freeze once they opened for the summer when they were on Stockton Boulevard in that little orange stand.