June 27, 2011
Between brunch and a July beer-tasting, Fabian's is on a roll

At the tender age of 6 months, Fabian's Italian Bistro continues to grow its base of loyal customers at viral speed. All that word-of-mouth is based on good reasons.

Let's start with its monthly winetastings, usually held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month. The bargain price of $10 buys four tastes and appetizers.

A twist on that is coming July 13, with a special pairing of appetizers and four Sierra Nevada beers - Torpedo, Harvest, Kellerweis and Old Chico wheat beer ( Same hours, same price. However, chef Tom Patterson is planning a special dinner that night as well, using Sierra Nevada beer as an ingredient. The menu and buy-in are still being worked out.

Moving to the daily menu (and nightly specials), on offer are homestyle meals with a glaze of finesse. In a "Counter Culture" restaurant review in March, I quoted co-owner Christian Forte (with wife Mercedes): "We came up with the menu based on (the dishes) we enjoy cooking at home and the ones I grew up with. My dad (former teen idol Fabian Forte) is an incredible cook."

For awhile, I've been stuck on the salmon, crispy polenta and garlicky gazpacho whenever I drop by. But Fabian's outdoor patio opened recently, and three lunch pals and I attended Sunday brunch (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

From the to-the-point menu ($6 to $11) we shared four dishes that were outstanding for their vibrancy and choice ingredients (and big portions). With its two bright-yellow poached eggs and perfectly cooked Yukon gold potatoes, the spinach Benedict (pictured) took first place.

It narrowly edged out the french toast (cinnamon custard-soaked brioche with vanilla cream), spring vegetable frittata (light and moist) and "eggs in the hole," which had nothing to do with the classic British dish (toad in the hole) other than toast (Pugliese from the Acme bakery) and sausage (house-made Italian link). Think also in terms of melted provolone and marinara sauce.

One more thing: subdued live guitar music is played from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Anticipating the brunch rush from the after-church crowed, we finished our Bellinis (Prosecco and peach puree, with raspberry garnish) and headed for the hills.

Fabian's is at 11755 Fair Oaks Blvd. in the Almond Orchard center, Fair Oaks; (916) 536-9891, www.fabiansitalianbistro.comphoto.JPG.

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