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The love of cheese

Housemade mozzarella shines at the newly opened Rosso Pizzeria in Theatre Square

Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar in Theatre Square specializes in not just Italian style thin-crust pizza, such as the Pollo al Mattone, above, but also housemade mozzarella and pastas.

Yovanna Bieberich
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 12:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 12:54 p.m.

The culinary duo of Kevin Cronin and chef John Franchetti found the recipe for success in Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, and five years after its opening, they have fired up the ovens at a second eatery, Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar at 151 Petaluma Blvd. North.

Facts

ROSSO

Cuisine: Pizzeria and mozzarella bar
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Ambiance: Rustic, casual
Wheelchair-accessible? Yes
Child-friendly? Yes
Prices: $$
Location: 151 Petaluma Blvd. North
Phone: 772-5177
Takeout: Yes
Website: www.rossopizzeria.com
Reservations: Not necessary, but available for parties of six or more
(Price for entree and beverage: $$$$: more than $20. $$$: $14 to $20. $$: $9 to $14. $: less than $9)

Rosso’s, which opened two months ago, is yet another reason the Theatre District is a refreshing and popular addition to downtown Petaluma. Large and airy, the restaurant is casual and comfortably chic without being pretentious. Like most of the Theatre District, it combines a new-look freshness with the comfort level of a more established restaurant.

The Lunch Bunch visited for a mid-day outdoor lunch by the Theatre Square fountain and had ample room for conversation without interrupting or being interrupted by our neighbors, a luxury not enjoyed at some other establishments. It would make a great place to take a family for lunch or a special someone on a date for dinner. There was also a bowl of water nearby for a canine companion, should someone want to bring one. The outdoor seating was perfect on a day with a warm breeze blowing.

Inspired by the slow food movement, Rosso’s specialty is its Neapolitan style of crispy, thin-crust pizza baked in a Tuscan wood-burning oven and a commitment to using fresh, local and in-season ingredients. But Rosso’s in Petaluma is more than just a pizzeria, it’s a showcase for pizza’s probably most- loved topping — cheese. Chef Franchetti has been making cheese for more than 20 years and Rosso’s menu features an assortment of house made mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella to sample.

If you don’t quite know where to start with the cheese menu, the waitstaff is friendly, well-informed and eager to offer suggestions.

The Lunch Bunch decided to start off with the Burrata with Prosciutto di Parma ($10). The soft burrata cheese, drizzled in olive oil and accompanied by wafer-thin slices of salty prosciutto, was creamy, light and addictively delicious.

Next we tried the Rosso Caesar ($9.25), a delightful chopped romaine salad with anchovy dressing and a couple surprises — a touch of gorgonzola cheese and a hint of Calabrian chilies. Rosso’s updated take on the classic Caesar had the delicate, but not overpowering tang of gorgonzola, which married well with the salad’s traditional ingredients. The addition of the Calabrian chili, which gave just a pleasant hint of heat, was creative and delicious.

There are a number of tempting appetizers on the menu, a selection of piadine (flat bread with salad topping) and of course, pizza. They offer the classic pizza Margherita ($12) and more exotic sounding pizzas, such as the Clam Pie ($16). The Pulia pizza with white sauce has Petaluma’s own Caggiano chicken sausage as its star, while the Moto Guzzi is topped with Caggiano spicy Italian sausage.

The pizzas are 10-inches in diameter, and are plenty for two people, or great to share among several people when enjoying other dishes.

The Lunch Bunch stuck to more traditional fare like the Pollo al Mattone (smoked brick chicken) ($15). The pizza had a crispy, thin crust topped with chunks of chicken on a red base of housemade tomato sauce and shaved garlic, with sprinkles of rosemary and more housemade burrata. The chicken was flavorful and tender and the cheese was light and delicious. We all agreed that the ingredients were top notch and the flavor was rich and amazing.

In addition to housemade cheese, each day, Rosso hand makes a different type of pasta. On Friday, it was gnocchi, a fluffy potato dumpling coated in a slightly sweet browned butter sauce and topped with a filet of fresh-caught halibut. The gnocchi dripped with buttery goodness and the halibut was impossibly light and tender. It was not sticky or heavy, like some gnocchi can be if it isn’t cooked just right.

The menu is chock-full of items from local growers, from fresh eggs to organic wine. In fact, the wine list is marked so that you know if the wine you’re ordering is from a sustainable, practicing organic or practicing biodynamic vineyard.

Rosso doesn’t offer a dessert menu, because it doesn’t want to compete with local sweet shops like Powell’s Sweet Shoppe and MoYo’s Frozen Yogurt, which is just a few steps away. It’s also a great idea for one business to support other nearby ones.

Everything from the appetizer to the salad to the entrée was tasty, but the standouts were the restaurant’s homemade pasta and cheese.

Rosso’s is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For information, visit www.rossopizzeria.com or call 772-5177.

(Contact the Lunch Bunch at argus@arguscourier.com)

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