Get that pasta fix
Sacramento, CA 95816
Sacramento has needed a casual but high-quality Italian restaurant for a long time. The kind you find in North Beach in San Francisco, a staple for that regular pasta fix.
Turns out that Adamo’s Kitchen quietly filled that niche when it opened in July 2014. John Adamo and his family own the building that also houses a laundromat and they all work in the restaurant. Son Polo Adamo heads the kitchen, while daughter Chiara works out front. Polo, a graduate of the American River College culinary program, formerly worked at Gary Danko in San Francisco.
Exposed brick walls and a small bar make for a cozy atmosphere, along with photos and images of Italian scenes.
The menu is compact but filled with standout choices. John Adamo makes all the pasta in-house, and his narrow pappardelle serve as a tender but toothsome base for a six-hour Bolognese sauce ($16). The slow-simmered meat sauce is rich with layers of vegetables, topped with shards of excellent Parmesan. It comes with an equally excellent garlic bread that one can order as an appetizer with marinara ($5).
We used ours to help sop up some of the plentiful anise-y broth with the mussels ($13). They were cooked perfectly—no small feat—and served with caramelized onions and housemade fennel sausage. You just need extra bread to get every last bit of the liquid.
Entrees come with a small salad, which is much better than most house offerings. Baby greens tossed with roasted peppers and garlicky croutons are lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. You can request a small version of the Caesar ($7) or mixed lettuces ($6.50) instead.
If you’ve given up on most Caesar salads for their gummy dressing, this version will win you over. The creamy garlic-infused dressing sings with pungent anchovy and fresh Parmesan balancing the crisp romaine and croutons.
The mixed lettuces, served with diced butternut squash, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese is one of the few misses. The flavors never quite come together, despite a lovely presentation.
Adamo’s has justifiably developed a reputation for great fries. The thick-cut potatoes are crisp on the outside and fluffy deliciousness inside. They are served with the burgers or you can order a side ($3) or the “Sucio” (dirty) fries ($9) laden with bacon, cheddar, poblano sauce, sour cream and onions.
Chicken entrees are also well executed. The pedestrian-sounding chicken breast ($18.50) with risotto turns out to be a succulent airline cut with gorgeously browned crispy skin. It sits atop a very clean-tasting mushroom risotto that boasts perfectly al dente diced vegetables.
The fried chicken ($18) may not outshine other versions in town, but it comes with outstanding stewed collard greens strewn with crispy bits of bacon. The heat of the sweet chili jam builds slowly and really perks up the chicken.
Meatballs and marinara ($10), an Italian restaurant mainstay, represent well, too. The polenta is creamy but not too thick and comes topped with three hearty beef-and-pork meatballs and marinara with a very fresh tomato sweetness.
Wines by the glass and beers on tap come at very reasonable prices ($5 to $6). A children’s menu offers smaller portions, including a nicely smoky cheeseburger ($9) with an excellent bun and plenty of those scrumptious fries.
Service is attentive and quite friendly. Unfortunately, on a couple of visits, the open kitchen sent smoke into the dining room, making it somewhat cold inside when the servers opened the front door to vent.
Adamo’s is really a wonderful neighborhood bistro where you can drop in for a quick bite and a beer or gather a group for a hearty multicourse meal. It has settled into a great option for midpriced casual with subtly polished details.