Appetizers
November 7, 2011
Sunday breakfast-brunch at Maranello wins the tasting game

maranello_15.jpg In the parking lot on Sunday, we followed the smokey smell of cooked bacon into Maranello restaurant and grabbed a table in the main dining room.

A server passed by, balancing two platters heaped with what looked like giant pieces of chicken covered in gravy.

We consulted our menus and found the dish: "Southern-fried chicken breast, buttermilk biscuit, pork sausage gravy, two eggs any style, house potatoes." Added was the comment, "Of course, no Fair Oaks chickens were harmed," a reference to the free-roaming poultry population of the town.

We were there to sample Maranello's new breakfast-brunch, along with 25 other like-minded diners. Ten more sat at the bar, watching the 49ers run over the Redskins, while 20 or so more had gathered in a private dining room to celebrate a baby shower. Next time, we'll get more leg room on the weather-proofed outdoor deck.

Executive chef Gabriel Glasier and his crew worked the kitchen, turning out waffles and pancakes (chocolate chip with Belgian chocolate sauce), eggs and omelets (smoked salmon and dill cream cheese), and "comfort food" that included chicken-fried hangar steak, and maple-cured pork loin teamed with potato pancakes ($6.75 to $12.95).

Years ago, Glasier opened and owned Redbud Cafe & Wine Bar in Cameron Park. Later, he was executive chef at Slocum House, a Fair Oaks landmark that closed in March.

We crowded our table with a heap of food - fat link sausages, deeply flavored bacon (crisper, please), a hazelnut buttermilk waffle with maple syrup (more bits of hazelnut, please), and chunky, incredibly tender corned-beef hash made from a bottom-round cut instead of the more traditional yet tougher brisket.

The sweet-smokey hash mingled with caramelized onion and was dolloped with whole-grain mustard hollandaise. "I would come back just for this," said one brunch pal. Everyone else nodded.

The show-stopper, though, was the daily special (pictured) - two thick patties of crab and rock shrimp (containing capers, garlic, lemon and dill, bound with housemade mayonnaise) topped with roasted tomato hollandaise, served with two perfectly poached eggs and roasted potatoes ($13.95).

"If there's one word for this, it's 'sublime,'" said a second brunch pal, and we nodded again.

Maranello, 8928 Sunset Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 241-9365, www.maranellorestaurant.com. Sunday breakfast-brunch is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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