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Restaurant: Papa Gianni’s Ristorante
Address: 3450 Palmer Drive in Cameron Park
It is 6 p.m. and Papa Gianni’s Ristorante is humming. And it’s a Wednesday, for crying out loud.
This is the second time I’ve dined at Papa Gianni’s, the first was a Tuesday, and you know what? It was packed then, too. Any gastronome will tell you that that’s a pretty good sign that the restaurant is doing something right.
Once again “Rook” and his lovely bride “The Queen” accompany me, but this time their daughter joins us. For the sake of anonymity we’ll call her “Pawn.” The more the merrier, I say. Good company, good food and all that stuff.
I’m struck once again, by the elegance and the simplicity of the décor at Papa Gianni’s — cool, clean, white and black, faux finish on the walls to give it that old world charm and a huge mural on the far wall depicting some beautiful scene in Italy. Once inside, diners are transported to a sophisticated, airy and very comfortable place.
Thankfully Rook had the foresight to call for a reservation. If he hadn’t, I think we would have been dining elsewhere.
We peruse the menu, and I immediately wanted to try the lasagna, knowing full well that their portions are legendarily ample. I get led astray as I my eyes spot the cannelloni. Two soft crepes filled with ground beef, tender mushrooms and spinach, topped with the restaurant’s homemade meat sauce with creamy, melted Mozzarella cheese.
If you’ll allow me to misquote a line from the Godfather movie, “Leave the lasagna; bring the Cannelloni.”
To properly prepare our stomachs for the feast to come we ordered an appetizer of fried calamari, which was lightly breaded and extremely tender. This was a perfect choice for the pre-dinner course.
The entrées arrived shortly.
Pawn selected the spaghetti, Queen the gnocchi, and Rook had the manicotti.
My cannelloni was really excellent and I devoured most of the generous portion. As I recall, my last visit required a to-go box; not this time.
Rook, who is of Italian heritage and for some bonus points hails from New York City, was spoiled by his mother’s cooking. Needless to say, he’s a hard one to please when it comes to Italian fare. That being said, he enjoyed his manicotti very much. Pawn loved her spaghetti, and The Queen’s gnocchi was cooked to perfection, although the sauce was a little too plentiful for her liking.
To finish off our meals we ordered and shared a slice of homemade cheese cake (with a drizzle of chocolate sauce) and an excellent (again, homemade) tierra missu dusted with chocolate.
Before our meal Pawn remarked that Papa Gianni’s Ristorante would be an awesome place for a first date. Weirdly enough, when I googled the restaurant name this morning I came across this unsolicited, anonymous quote:
“The first time I went (to Papa Gianni’s) was on a first date and it was very romantic. It is dimly lit and a fairly small restaurant. We stayed for 3 hours talking and really enjoyed our meals. We go back on the anniversary of that date every year because we love it there so much!”
Papa Gianni’s Ristorante is located at 3450 Palmer Drive in Cameron Park. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 530-672-2333.