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Allen Pierleoni/
You’ll find real East Coast pizza at Dominick’s, along with homemade meatballs covered in mozzarella cheese and baked in marinara sauce.

Husband and wife Dominick and Raquel Bellizzi came to town from New Jersey nearly 10 years ago, bringing their delicatessen and pizza-making expertise with them. Since then, their four-star trattoria and two delis have been reviewed in my column, “Counter Culture,” which appears in the Friday Ticket section.

Now word comes of their fund-raiser for the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Pizza, wine-tasting and live entertainment will be on the menu from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Dominick’s New York Pizza & Deli, 187 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom; (916) 351-0900, Donations are $25. Proceeds will go to the society.

Celebrations of Sacramento as America’s “Farm-to-Fork Capital” will run from Sept. 13 to Sept. 28, and a preview event will feature a parade of tractors. This procession of tractors showcasing farm machinery from the past and present will take place along the Capitol Mall at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

The event is similar in spirit to a cattle drive on the Capitol Mall, which helped christen the debut of “Farm-to-Fork Week” in 2013 and its showcase of the region’s agri-business through restaurant specials, a free festival and gala dinner on the Tower Bridge. More than two dozen tractors are expected to participate in the parade, with some of this farm equipment donated by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“It obviously fits in with the theme of farm-to-fork,” said Mike Testa, vice president of the City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is a visual way to illustrate farming in this region.”

Randall Benton / The Sacramento Bee
Legendary rocker Sammy Hagar will re-open his namesake Roseville restaurant with a concert in September.

Legendary rocker Sammy Hagar will re-open his namesake Roseville restaurant with a concert in September.

Hagar will reunite with the surviving members of Montrose, the hard rock band with which he launched his career in the 1970s. The concert will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at downtown Roseville’s Vernon Street Town Square, in front of Roseville City Hall. Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill is slated to open Sept. 15.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased at and are $82.50 for two people, which includes a $75 restaurant gift card.

The re-opening comes almost a year after former owner Steve Pease disappeared and was later found dead in the Pacific Ocean near Gualala. The circumstances of his death have not been solved. The Roseville Community Development Corporation, a city affiliated nonprofit, foreclosed on the property earlier this year and worked with Hagar to bring back the popular downtown eatery.

Chris Macias/
The Goldfield Trading Post menu includes a French dip-like “cowpoke steak sandwich.”
Chris Macias/
Goldfield Trading Post is a country music club and eatery in Sacramento.

First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at .

Sacramento’s certainly become more cosmopolitan over the last decade, given its welcoming of $12 artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches and impeccably prepared craft cocktails. But make no mistake, y’all: Sacramento’s always been a country kind of town.

The biggest stars in country music can always count on a show in Sacramento, whether it’s Taylor Swift or Tim McGraw. (By comparison, folks had to travel to San Francisco to see Jay-Z and Beyonce in concert). Much of the country action has taken place in the ‘burbs, through such defunct clubs as In Cahoots and Denim ’n’ Diamonds.

But that country flavor has slowly started to migrate toward the central city, including Stoney Rockin Rodeo on Del Paso Boulevard and the now-shuttered Bulls Restaurant & Bar near 13th and H streets.

Merrick Morton/AP

The film that likely launched a thousand hunts for Cuban sandwiches around the country when it was released in May will return to theaters Aug. 29.

“Chef,” in which Jon Favreau stars as a creatively stunted Los Angeles chef who regains his vigor via a Cuban-sandwich food truck, already has drawn nearly $30 million at the box office. Now the film’s distributor, Open Road, is going for seconds.

And perhaps for awards consideration for Favreau, who also wrote and directed the film. A studio press release announcing the re-release mentions that Hollywood guild members with union cards can get into the movie for free.

“Chef” marked “Swingers” writer-director Favreau’s return to modestly budgeted films after directing the first two “Iron Man” films. “Chef” and Favreau’s performance in it both drew solid reviews from critics.

GRC18IJ8C.3Staff Photographer
Randall Benton/
Jackie Lowe, left, toasts Chris Woloshansky during August 2012’s A Taste of Midtown Cocktail Week in Sacramento. The tradition continues this year.

In the spirit of spontaneity, we cruised the menu of events for Midtown Cocktail Week, which kicks off today and wraps up Sunday, keeping an eye on those pop-ups. Try this sampling, both shaken and stirred.



•  Absolutely!, 5 p.m. at Foundation, 400 L St., (916) 321-9522, Meet Absolut vodka “ambassador” Jessamine McLellan and taste Absolut and Absolut Elyx.

Leilani Hu/ Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
The dessert baklava — filo dough, honey and nuts — will be a star at the Greek Festival.

It wouldn't be the Labor Day weekend without the annual Greek Festival (the 51st), and it wouldn’t be the festival without the food. The dishes are handmade from scratch by volunteers who are experienced home cooks and members of the sponsoring Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

Check out the menu of Hellenic delicacies: pastitsio (Greek lasagna), dolmades (stuffed grape-vine leaves), tiropeta (three-cheese-filled filo pastry dough), paidakia (grilled lamb chops), kota psiti (marinated baked chicken), moussaka (eggplant-beef casserole), baklava (layers of honey-drizzled fillo, chopped nuts and cinnamon) and loukoumades (fried dough balls drenched in honey and topped with cinnamon and nuts), finished with strong Greek coffee and pastries.

There’s more:

A “farm to fork” food court, with more homemade Greek food specialties.

Polish American Club/
Members of the Lowiczanie Dance Group will perform at the Polish Festival.

Get a big helping of Polish food and culture at the 25th annual Polish Festival, a celebration from noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 6 on the grounds of the Polish American Club, 327 Main St., Roseville (916-781-8035,

Food-wise, heap your plates with individually priced kielbasa sausages, and homemade pierogies (dumplings stuffed with cheese and potatoes), cabbage rolls, potato pancakes, pastries and more. Plus, cold Polish beers.

Also: polka bands, folk dancing, a marketplace with imported goods, activities for children and a raffle. Free admission.

Allen Pierleoni/ apierleoni
Veri sodas are organic, low-cal (60) and flavored with natural ingredients — but how do they taste?

Most sodas are notoriously full of processed sugar and artificial ingredients. Their contents lists can resemble the handbook that comes with a chemistry set.

The founders of the Veri Soda Co. have an option, a low-calorie (60) organic soda in four flavors. Their tastes are derived in part from “organic juice concentrates and organic plant extracts, plus organic cane sugar and organic stevia.”

Stevia was first marketed as an herbal supplement in the U.S. and has had some controversy attached to it, but stevia-based sweeteners have been FDA-approved.

Some things Veri sodas don’t have are additives, preservatives, artificial colorings or flavorings. Another thing they don’t have is intense taste, which seems to be the tradeoff.

Wednesday, August 13 2014
Melon Mania comes rolling in
Randy Pench/
An Orangeglo watermelon is one of many grown at Maple Rock Gardens in Penryn. The farm is getting ready for its first Melon Mania melon festival on Aug. 23, 2014.

It’s shaping up to be a great melon season at Penryn’s Maple Rock Gardens. That’s a good thing; the farm will host its first Melon Mania melon festival on Saturday, Aug. 23.

“You don’t know how stressful it is to try and hit a particular harvest date,” said Scott Paris, owner of Maple Rock Gardens. “It’s been a roller coaster.”

Despite the drought and early summer heat, tons of melons are ripening in Maple Rock’s fields right on time. Paris predicts thousands of melons in more than 40 varieties will be ready for Melon Mania. Most of these melons are heirloom varieties rarely seen in supermarkets. (And almost all of them have seeds.)

During a recent sneak peak at the melon patch, this Orangeglo watermelon was one of our favorites. It was sweet, juicy and delicious, but it was the spectacular bright orange color that really got us hooked.

Wednesday, August 13 2014
California cheese earns national honors

Credit the cows (and some sheep and goats, too). California cheese producers are still basking in the afterglow of the American Cheese Society’s 31st annual competition and conference, held recently in Sacramento. Cheese made with California cow’s milk won two dozen awards.

Two California cheesemakers — Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese and Oakdale Cheese & Specialties — placed second and third respectively in the Best of Show contest, won by Vermont’s Farms for City Kids Foundation and its Tarentaise Reserve. For the competition’s top honors, Point Reyes placed with its Bay Blue and Oakdale tied for third (with New York’s Sprout Creek Farm Eden) for its aged Gouda.

In all, California cow’s milk cheeses that are part of the “Real California” cheese program brought home five first-place, nine second-place and 10 third-place awards. Besides the first-place divisional wins by Point Reyes’ Bay Blue and Oakdale’s aged Gouda, the other first-place winners were:

• Lemoore-based Dairy Goddess Farmstead Cheese and Milk, which won the “Flavored Cheeses – All Milk” category for its “The Valley” Fromage Blanc;

Wednesday, August 13 2014
Denny's launches 'No Kid Hungry' campaign

Denny’s knows the importance of breakfast, not just to its business but in people’s lives. In particular, children need to start their days with a wholesome breakfast before they tackle school.

With that in mind, Denny’s restaurants nationwide will launch a campaign Friday to raise funds and awareness for Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign.

Through Sept. 30, almost 1,600 Denny’s — including 51 restaurants in the greater Sacramento and Modesto markets — will offer coupons for donations to fight childhood hunger. No Kid Hungry focuses on providing healthy school breakfasts to children in need.

“Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry effort is by far one of our nation’s most important, most influential and impactful campaigns aimed at ending childhood hunger in this country to date, and Denny’s is proud to be a partner in the movement for the fourth year in a row,” said John Miller, Denny’s chief executive officer. “With one in five children struggling with hunger in the U.S., Denny’s remains committed to No Kid Hungry and in the organization’s efforts to increase school breakfast participation nationwide, thereby bettering our kids’ academic, health and economic futures.”

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

Appetizers Archives

Note: The Appetizers blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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