A few weeks ago in a local pub I overheard some fellow diners waxing poetic about the delicious sausage served up at Yanni's Sausage Grill in Penngrove. Being a sausage lover from way back, I was intrigued. But before going all the way up to Penngrove (just kidding — it's a mere eight miles up the road from me) I did a little on line research.
I found that this tiny establishment of 270 square feet has received rave reviews from other chefs and diners from San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa, as well as accolades from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, where they have won awards for their hand crafted sausages three years running since they opened in 2010. So I decided to make the trip.
Yanni's is located at 10007 Main St., in the center of Penngrove's three-block shopping district. It's more of a sandwich shop, with indoor seating at a small bar against the window, and two outdoor tables. The interior is a clean, bright white with blue trim and a bright orange door. Greek memorabilia and photos of patrons and celebrities adorn the walls. Charming owners Francesca and John Vrattros are always behind the counter, engaging customers in conversation and happy to describe the fare they offer.
All sausages are their original recipes, and offered with roasted peppers, grilled onions, greek chili (think good and spicy) pepperoncini or banana peppers. There is also a featured sausage of the month — this month it's an Asian sausage with mango slaw — and an assortment of burgers, salads and sides.
I watched John Vrattros make his "unforgetable cheeseburger," which is a beef patty grilled in a dessert-plate sized circle of shredded cheddar cheese. Several of the regular patrons ordered this while I was there, and Vrattros confided that they come back several times a week for these burgers.
The Vrattroses opened Yanni's after John's other career in food service ended after 30 years. The inspiration for the restaurant came from a Christmas gift — the couple received a Kitchen Aid stand mixer from one of their children and decided to get a sausage maker attachment. John was trying to replicate the greek Loukaniko sausage that his mom served while he was growing up. What the Vrattroses have since crafted together is an assortment of delicious Greek and Italian style sausages.
At Yanni's, they do a brisk lunch business and recommend that you phone in your order ahead of pick up, if possible. Everything is grilled to order and all ingredients are fresh. The Vrattroses also have plans to expand the business to be able to sell their products in local grocery outlets, and want to move into catering more events.
For lunch, I ordered the signature Loukaniko ($6.80), a pork sausage flavored with anise, orange and lemon zest with grilled peppers. It was split grilled, which makes it easier to eat — no sliding off the bun — and served on a fresh toasted French roll. It was a hearty serving and more than enough to fill me up. While tempted to split an order of Greek fries with my lunch date, I'm not sure I would have been able to finish the sausage. And finishing that delicious sausage was my primary mission.
My date ordered the Chicken Limoncello sausage ($6.80), flavored with sweet red pepper, pepperoncini, and lemon, with grilled onions. It was hearty and delicious — and complete as cooked. Vrattros does not recommend the use of mustard, mayo or catsup on any of his sausages.