Opening the door of Café Citti is like stepping into the dining room of the Italian grandmother you wish you had. The aroma of rich tomato sauces simmering on the stove in the open kitchen wafts through the quaint dining room flanked by a sturdy fireplace. You might miss it if you’re headed down Highway 12 at a high rate of speed as the front of the old building is rather non-descript. The small restaurant has built a loyal following in Kenwood, in the heart of Sonoma Valley, by serving house made Northern Italian specialties in a casual atmosphere.
On our first visit we stepped through the front door to stand awkwardly in the hubbub of patrons and wait staff bustling around the couple of dozen tables, a common occurrence for first time patrons. We slowly came to the realization that we needed to place our order at the back counter, and after observing others engage in this dance we often wonder why the proprietors don’t make the procedure a little more clear. As we made our way to the menu we noticed a distinctive tilt as the room lists toward the south wall but we overcame gravity to gape openmouthed at the tantalizing menu. It isn’t that extensive, but somehow being face to face with the freshly prepared salads in the deli cases and the aromatic roasted chickens hanging over the counter you just have a sense that everything is going to be good so it makes it hard to narrow down the choices.
A large menu board suspended from the ceiling offers different pasta shapes, such as linguini, fusilli, rigatone and penne, selected separately from the accompanying sauces, which range from mild marinara to spicy arrabbiata suace, with clam and pesto sauces rounding out the offerings. The delectable fresh ravioli, stuffed with meat, swiss chard and herbs is a locals favorite. The layered lasagna and airy gnocchi are light and fluffy. The Caesar salad bursts with pungent garlic flavor, and is not for the faint of heart—it’s for committed garlic lovers only. There are a wide variety of other salads, from field greens to calamari, including a selection of traditional offerings such as marinated button mushroom and green bean salads.
After ordering diners seat themselves, and from then on the self-serve component transitions to traditional restaurant service. Friendly, if sometimes harried, servers deliver meals to the table and take any subsequent orders for wine or dessert.
The wine list features a wide selection of Italian wines, but locally produced Kenwood wines, from the eponymous winery across the street, are available by the glass or bottle. Wines are reasonably priced and, surprisingly, you can also bring your own with no corkage fee, so if you pick up some choice bottles at the many nearby wineries you can enjoy them with your meal. Tasting rooms within walking distance of Café Citti include one of my favorites, Enkidu, which offers a small number of high quality, hand crafted wines in a sleek, sophisticated tasting room, as well as Muscardini Cellars, Paradise Ridge Winery, Mayo Family Winery, VJB Vineyard and Cellars, and Family Wineries, all located on Sonoma Highway.
Café Citti provides hearty Italian fare in a cozy dining room, offering a relaxed, down home wine country experience in Sonoma Valley.
9049 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
Open 7 Days a Week
Lunch Daily 11:00 A.M.-3:30 P.M.
Dinners 5:00 P.M.- 9:00 P.M. (varies seasonally)
Entrees run $12-15
To reach Kenwood from San Francisco by car (approximately 1 – 1.5 hours, depending on traffic and other conditions):
- Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and follow US 101 North
- Take exit #460A/Napa/Vallejo onto CA-37 East
- Bear left on CA-121 North (Arnold Drive) toward Sonoma
- Continue on 116 West (Arnold Drive)
- Continue on Arnold Drive
- Turn right on Madrone Rd
- Turn left on CA-12 (Sonoma Highway)
- Arrive at 9049 Sonoma Highway