Sacramento, CA 95831
Located in the Riverlake Village Shopping Center at the corner of Greenhaven Drive and Pocket Road, Cacio hides in plain sight among a gym, a beauty salon, a frozen yogurt place and a handful of other businesses. From the outside, it looks like any small strip mall restaurant, but stepping through the door envelopes you in a profound feeling of hominess.
Cacio is cozy to be sure—read: small—but owners Jonathan Kerksieck and Katie Kinner-Kerksieck imbue every inch of the space with a warmth you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Padded banquettes are lined with comfy throw pillows, shelved and hanging knick-knacks abound, and a soft, golden light fills the whole place with a cheerful vibe. Walking in the door feels like you’ve just stumbled into your best friend’s kitchen.
The food at Cacio is just as satisfying as the atmosphere. My first visit was punctuated by an enormous braised pork shank ($18) that showed up to the table like a caveman club atop a bed of greens, creamy polenta and generous ladle-full of savory braising liquid. The shank was cooked slowly to voluptuous tenderness under Kerksieck’s watchful eye; it was easily one of the most satisfying meat dishes I’ve had in the past year.
Second up was cacio e pepe ($13), the Roman cheese-and-pepper pasta dish for which the restaurant is named. Well executed from both technical and experiential standpoints, the dish was creamy and well-sauced without a single identifiable chunk of cheese. (Anyone who has been served a broken or under-melted bowl of cacio e pepe will understand why this is worth mentioning.) Also added to the mix was a simple cup of country bean soup ($8), which sang with flavor and warmed our rain-soaked joints from within.
A second visit was just as successful, with a roasted green salad ($10) bright with arugula, endive, almond, blue cheese and a surprisingly luxurious lemon-shallot vinaigrette. The bucatini and meatballs ($15) arrived topped with fresh basil and a dollop of creamy cheese, plucking every possible savory note on our palates. A small-ish bowl of macaroni and cheese ($10) was also a hit, or rather a velvety dream of fontina, Parmesan-Reggiano, dry mozzarella, pancetta and roasted garlic.
Then came dessert, dubbed “chocolate ganache,” ($8) consisting of grilled bread, olive oil, sea salt and the aforementioned ganache. This is the second time in recent memory I’ve been served a dessert in Sacramento that involves grilled or toasted bread with some sort of side sauce. While I appreciate the eye toward reducing food waste, bread and dipping sauce is not a satisfying $8 dessert ($4, possibly). But for eight bucks I expect to be served a dish that involves a little more effort and doesn’t so closely resemble … bread.
Plainly put, the final word on Cacio is, Yes! Go. There. Now. The food is incredible, they’ve got a solid wine list and the atmosphere will make you feel like you just stepped into your auntie’s kitchen in the middle of a family holiday.