Ettore’s is best known as a bakery that makes world-class cakes, but breakfast, lunch and dinner have been served for years.
“There are still people who don’t know we have food,” said Ettore Ravazzolo, who runs the operation with his wife and company vice president, Meggan Rush-Ravazzolo.
We pinballed through several dishes during two visits, trying to focus on the food and not on the pastries, yet we did knock off a few cinnamon rolls (flaky, light, not overly sweet) and buttery croissants. Oh, and a couple of chocolate-chunk cookies. And a fruit tart, but that was it. Maybe.
The restaurant template is largely self-serve. Find a menu near the order counter (or cruise the well-stocked cold case); give your order to the cashier and pay; take your number stand to a table; a server will find you. You’re on your own for cutlery, napkins, condiments and coffee, but orange juice and iced tea are delivered. No tipping necessary.
Salads (green, chicken, pasta), sandwiches on house-baked breads (grilled chicken breast with mozzarella) and pizzas are lunch standards, but we thought the specials were more interesting (polenta with filet mignon tips and mushrooms; rib-eye sandwich). Dinner stars include seafood pasta and grilled rack of lamb.
At breakfast, we loved the scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and mushrooms, but the busy mound of breakfast potatoes required more appetite than we had. The fat sausages and crisp bacon oinked with flavor. The turkey-Swiss on croissant was a handful, paired with broccoli-flecked penne pasta.
At lunch, we ate at the granite counter in front of the wood-burning pizza oven and watched juicy whole chickens Ferris-wheel on the rotisserie. A slice of creamy veggie quiche in crisp crust arrived with a big tossed salad and sweet strawberries. A bowl of silken split-pea soup was delicious, if a tad salty.
The signature showstopper is the hamburger, layered with flavors. Picture a half-pound of Niman Ranch ground chuck on a crunchy-chewy cheddar-scallion bun loaded with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, red-leaf lettuce and herbed mayo. A version of it won the 2013 Burger Battle at Raley Field, and was a runner-up in the 2012 fundraiser.
“I thought there was a demand for hamburgers, so I put it on the menu 15 years ago and it became instantly popular,” Ettore said.
It still is, and part of that could be how counterintuitive it is to find an all-American classic at a refined European-style bakery. Pass the Grey Poupon, please.