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At Sugo Trattoria, a taste of Italy

With so many great restaurants in Petaluma, especially in the Italian food category, it is hard to pick a favorite. For us, it usually depends on what we are in the mood for at that particular time.

When we’re in the mood for Italian comfort food, we tend to think of Sugo. There is something about this cozy little restaurant that just feels right. It almost feels like walking in the front door of a friend’s home, with a two-tiered dining and kitchen area and a small patio out front.

We have never entered this restaurant without being greeted right away — usually by multiple folks who sing out their greeting and get you seated right away — as long as there are available seats of course.

As soon as you are seated, a small wooden tray of delicious bread appears, and there are bottles of olive oil and balsamic on your table for dipping as you choose. In the current restaurant climate of bread service that comes with a hefty price tag, it is lovely to find a nice restaurant that understands how off-putting charging for bread is to many restaurant customers.

Clearly Annette and Peter get it when it comes to how to run a restaurant to make the customer feel happy.

One of the dishes we always order is their Bruschetta Trio. There are nine different kinds to choose from. We have tried them all, and each one is delicious. The last time we were there we had the prosciutto, housemade fig jam and brie; the warm artichoke and walnut pesto; and the classic tomato, pesto, mozzarella and basil.

You could make a meal out of just this one category of items, and at only $8.50 for three, you won’t spend much for this very high quality dish.

The item on my must-order list is the housemade pappardelle with rotisserie chicken, pistachios, wild mushrooms and spicy broth. When I tell people about this dish, sometimes I sense push back because of the word “spicy,” but honestly it is very mildly spiced, and not at all what I would consider “hot” except by the temperature.

It is comfort food of the first order of magnitude, with its handmade silky smooth pasta — pappardelle are wide-cut egg noodles and these are so thin you know they are made right there. The chicken, mushrooms and pistachios add just the right amount of varying textures to make the dish interesting. Because of the use of a light broth instead of sauce, and the addition of those certain ingredients, I always feel somewhat virtuous when I order it, because it just feels healthy.

Salads are done just right here, with the proper ratio of dressing to ingredients, nicely tossed, and with well-balanced ingredients to provide exactly the kind of refreshment one wants in a salad meal.

Another favorite is the risotto. Seared scallop risotto with asparagus, wild mushrooms and English peas is one of our favorites. The seared scallops on this dish were enormous, properly seared and very fresh. One cannot ask for a better dish, and at only $15 it is the bargain of Petaluma.

If you enjoy beef, and like it raw, then the carpaccio at Sugo is the dish for you. Thinly sliced raw beef fillet dressed with EVOO, shaved Parmesan cheese, and capers, and served with a lightly dressed field greens salad is a perfect rendition of this classic Italian appetizer.

We went there one night with our little dog, and sat on their pet-friendly patio. A bowl of water was swiftly provided for our furry friend, and the staff members were very accommodating when fellow patrons were doting over our little dog while she did some tricks for them. This caring attitude is the difference between being pet-friendly and pet-tolerant as some restaurants can be.

One night we went there with two exchange students, one from Paraguay and the other from Taiwan. The server was extraordinarily helpful in guiding these two teens from other countries to dishes they knew they would enjoy. In our opinion, it is this professionally proffered service that sets Sugo apart from so many other restaurants.

Desserts at Sugo are made from scratch right there, and it shows in how fresh they are. Most recently, we tried the lavender panna cotta with fresh berries. It was delicious and was a great sense-of-place dessert with the use of lavender that we see growing abundantly here in Sonoma County.

Sugo is located at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, right behind the downtown movie theater. There is some limited off-street parking, quite a lot of street parking, and two parking garages each within a two-block walk, so it is very easy to go there. Since its location is so central, we often make this a stop after a matinée, or before an evening show either there or at the Mystic Theater.

One of the best-kept secrets about Sugo is their Tuesday night specials. They offer their bruschetta trio for $5 and all their wines by the glass are also $5. Now I am sure I have just made a lot of people upset, because the restaurant is always packed for these great prices on Tuesday, but at least if you go you will know why it is so busy.