Quasi perfezionare, ma …

Bravo Ristorante Italiano

2333 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95825

(916) 568-0494

Maybe it’s just me, but Bravo doesn’t seem to get the same kind of attention that other contemporary Italian restaurants in town do. Perhaps this is because it’s located right next to the more prominent Piatti, and it’s sort of behind a Swanson’s cleaners, in the space formerly occupied by Wulff’s, so it’s overshadowed in two respects.

But my assessment, having dined there recently, is this: Bravo deserves more attention—for although the food was not entirely superlative, it was close, and both the service and the atmosphere were impressive.

Adorned with numerous framed Italian-themed photos, large mirrors and cozy seats, Bravo’s dining room has a decided classiness about it; and on certain nights a gentleman at a grand piano gently wafts Italian opera standards through the room. This is definitely a great place for a romantic dinner.

When we arrived the other night, we were ushered past what looked to be an unusually inviting bar. A friendly and attentive server saw to our needs immediately; we had wine and bread within a minute or so.

For starters, we tried a mixed green salad with slices of fresh mango and a Gorgonzola dressing ($8.50), and the evening’s soup: potato and leek ($5.50). I can’t remember ever trying anything that mixed the flavors of mango and Gorgonzola, but the two worked together well, as many fruits do with pungent cheeses.

As far as the potato and leek soup went, I thought it was excellent. So often, when eating this type of soup, I wonder what’s the point of the leeks, since I can rarely detect their presence. But with Bravo’s version, the leeks were not only detectable, but they gave the soup a significant yet subtle complexity and smoothness of flavor. With fresh cracked pepper on top and drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, Bravo’s version of this common soup assumed grander status.

Also good was the evening’s special ravioli with ground pork and ricotta cheese filling, saffron, cream, herbs and Parmesan ($12.75). The use of saffron was perfectly subtle, giving the dish added body without overpowering the palate with saffron flavor, and the pork filling was similarly well handled: neither overbearing nor bland. Though the cream was slightly over-reduced, leading to that situation where, once cooled, the pasta begins to stick together like glue, the dead-on seasoning generally made up for it. Also slightly shy of the mark was the pasta itself, which was slightly undercooked, a shade or two under al dente.

Another entrée, the sautéed breast of duck with orange and cognac sauce ($23.00), was likewise almost great. A large and thick breast of duck was cooked through though not overcooked and laced with strips of orange zest. The presence of cognac was a bit muted, as was the sauce in general, which tasted more like natural pan juices than an actual orchestrated sauce. Nevertheless, the duck breast was tender and highly flavorful.

But one thing most undercut Bravo’s aspirations to greatness. And perhaps, as a writer, I’m just being nitpicky. It seems to me, however, that when you’re trying to put together a high-end place, you need to cover all the bases. Bravo has the dining room down. The service leaves nothing to be desired, and the food is generally quite good. But, to me, when your menu contains typos and misspellings and bad translations, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot, calling into question your professionalism.

For example, a seared halibut dish is described as being “sired,” rather than “seared.” A dish is written in Italian as Tagliarini verdi, but translated as “green linguine.” Tagliarini and linguine are distinct types of pasta, so which is it? Further, a typo renders roasted peppers “roaested,” and the not-at-all-warm Gorgonzola dressing on our salad was described as “warm gorgonzola dressing.” Bravo really should get someone more on the ball to write up the menu.

But who knows, maybe no one else cares about this sort of thing. Either way, the food is what counts and it was generally well executed; and the dining experience was definitely comfortable, relaxed and enjoyable.