When spring rolls around, restaurants, like a lot of people, get a surge of energy that shows up in new personnel, new paint, new dishes and the like. Few, however, make themselves over as extensively as Cafe Vinoteca has in recent weeks.
Long a finely detailed trattoria whose spirited Italian dishes draw guests from beyond the immediate neighborhood, Cafe Vinoteca these days is boasting a new executive chef, a new pastry chef and several new dishes. Charles "Charlie" Harrison, most recently chef de cuisine at Masque Ristorante of El Dorado Hills, and formerly with David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods and the Folsom branch of Zinfandel Grille, is heading up the kitchen. Cindy Lemmon, most recently pastry chef at David Berkley, and once the owner of her own bakery in Woodland, Florence Baking Co., is overseeing breads and desserts.
In restyling the menu, owners Jim and Janie Desmond Ison, pictured at left, have retained several popular dishes (tortini di riso, spaghetti Bolognese, veal Marsala, banana cream pie) while adding selections that take greater advantage of regional and seasonal ingredients, such as a pear and endive salad with candied pecans, fried Delta asparagus with aioli, and halibut with a spring-onion emulsion.
In keeping with the restaurant's name - "vinoteca" is Italian for "wine case" or "wine library" - the wine list also has been updated and expanded, and today offers a more diverse selection of Californian and Italian labels.
In Arden Town Plaza on the northeast corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Watt Avenue, Cafe Vinoteca is open weekdays for lunch and dinner, Saturdays for dinner, and Sundays for brunch and dinner; (916) 487-1331.