Viva gelato

Eatuscany Caffe

Eatuscany Cafe

1801 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 930-1950

It’s distressing when the most exciting thing on the table is a standard Caesar salad.

It’s distressing when toppings completely slide off a pizza after you pick it up. It’s distressing when a plate of bucatini carbonara arrives seemingly dry, with the gray-tinged hunks of limp pancetta.

I am distressed, because I think Eatuscany Caffe serves the best gelato in the city but everything else falls so, so short.

Eatuscany Caffe opened in August in Midtown’s bustling Handle District, on the same block as Ginger Elizabeth and around the corner from Devine Gelataria. Stiff competition in the sweets department, but Eatuscany sets itself apart by serving lunch and dinner in its adorable, distinctly European-feeling space.

Owners Franco and Stefania Zerbinati don’t speak English very well, but they’re extremely friendly when they’re around. Some of Eatuscany’s other employees are lovely as well. Some are not. Some are prone to eye rolling and answering simple questions like, “What’s in the Eatuscany gelato?” with a dismissive “I don’t know.”

For the record, it’s candied fig and ricotta, and it’s delicious. Stefania makes Eatuscany’s gelato daily in-house and it tastes just like the gelato in Italy. Sure enough, she trained at Artigeniale, a dessert school about halfway between Venice and Bologna. My first love was Eatuscany’s pistachio ($4.50 for a small): salty, meaty, nutty, savory and sweet, with a deep brown-green hue. It seems silly to say, but it tasted so strongly of pistachio. All of Eatuscany’s flavors are what you’d imagine, but more intense, more pure. And the consistency is phenomenal: richer, denser, creamier than the competition. When you dig in your spoon, you are met with resistance. You must pull and watch the gelato pull with you into elegant wisps of delight.

I was impressed by the Firenze panini ($8.95), stuffed with prosciutto, fresh crescenza cheese, tomatoes, arugula and artichoke cream. The focaccia’s edges were crisp, its interior soft. Quality ingredients, definitely. But let’s be honest, panini aren’t terribly difficult to execute.

Neither is bruschetta ($6), or so I thought. Three thick-cut pieces of baguette arrived freshly toasted, but beneath an ice-cold concoction of fresh tomato, olive oil, tomato sauce, oregano and garlic. Excellent, simple flavor, but the temperature was too bizarre to get over. My teeth were uncomfortable.

Eatuscany’s breads and pastas are not housemade—and it shows. The lasagne pesto ($14) was gummy and boring. The crespelle ai funghi ($11.50) intrigued—an Italian crepe folded over bechamel, with mushrooms, Parmesan and truffle oil—but tasted one-dimensional. Worse, there was nothing to counteract its soft, mushy mouthfeel. Even worse, it, too, needed heaps of salt.

Every pasta dish I tasted—there are daily specials, such as that aforementioned carbonara—confounded me. How could they be so bland when there’s so much butter and cheese?

The most depressing experience came from the round, individual -sized pizzas. They sit in an appealing display case—alongside breakfast pastries, which are frankly disappointing as well—before being baked-to-order. What occurred next is hard to explain. Not only did the toppings—in this case, prosciutto and mozzarella—immediately fall off the pizza, but the center was soggy and the crusts were brittle, shattering in the mouth into dry, bready bits. Overall, it tasted like an old biscuit.

Do become a regular at Eatuscany for its gelato. But for most other Italian deli and pasta desires, make the trek a few blocks north to Sampino’s Towne Foods.