With so many similarities between Italy and California – the balmy Mediterranean climes, the drop-dead gorgeous people, the ridiculous real estate prices – it is no wonder that Italian restaurants are dime-a-dozen in Palo Alto. Few, however, manage to balance authenticity with affordability, the same way University Avenue gem La Strada does.
Recreating a rustic Tuscan trattoria, La Strada’s authenticity extends beyond just the roaring wood-fired oven and alfresco tables. The Charcuterie Platter ($9) is a generous selection of imported prosciutto, mortadella, finocchiona, bresaola and Tyrolean speck, elevated by a creamy pillow of fior di latte mozzarella ($5 supplement). Equally divine is the Kobe Beef Carpaccio ($12), leaf-thin slices of pounded meat drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and topped with an alchemical confetti of capers, diced onion and shaved grana padano cheese.
Amid the exquisite range of primi and secondi, the Risotto & Sonoma Quail ($18) stands out, with perfectly crisped skin giving way to the characteristic milkiness of quail meat. The risotto – studded with wild mushrooms and perfumed with a touch of truffle oil – provides a cosseting starch base to the delicate poultry, with al dente bullets of carnaroli rice offering a curious textural contrast.
The wine list, too, is impressively varied, with options as reliable as the Chateau St. Michele 2011 Riesling ($32 a bottle) and as decadent as the luscious, velvety Oasi degli Angeli Kurni 2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($165 a bottle).
La Strada provides as authentic an Italian meal as you can get without a $1,200 transatlantic plane ride, which is just as well, really, because unlike just about every ristorante or trattoria in Italy, the service is actually efficient, the waiting staff actually friendly and the credit card machine actually not broken.
La Strada Ristorante
335 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Contact Renjie Wong at email@example.com.