Customers walking into Riviera (Photo: Parece Morovat, The Puma Prensa)
By Parece Morovat, business manager
The smells of freshly grated parmesan, chopped basil, and sweet tomatoes waft through the atmosphere as people make their way to their tables of Riviera Ristorante. It is a classic family-owned restaurant that has been serving Italian food in Sonoma County for over 20 years. Additionally, it has built a reputation for providing quality, authentic Italian food with great flavor.
The first time I went to Riviera was about a year ago. Every time I have been since I make sure to order a different selection from their menu to try new flavorful combinations. I am always pleased to find that they always provide a variety of new specials on their menu depending on the day, providing a wider palette of tastes.
One of my favorite dishes is the Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca, a tomato-based pasta dish served with capers, anchovies, and black olives. The sauce has an enjoyable salty, mildly sweet flavor. Additionally, the flavors represent the cooking styles of Rome and Genoa, aligning with the home country of both of the owners, Luca Pesce and Rita Faglia. The freshness of their ingredients stands out with every bite. Some of their organic ingredients are imported from Italy, such as their prosciutto, mortadella, and a few of their kinds of pastas. The rest are locally produced, and several of their pastas, including their ravioli and fettuccine, are even freshly made in their kitchen. The pasta is always cooked to al dente perfection, never being too chewy or too soft. For the nicely sized portions and quality ingredients, the price is well worth it too. Additionally, the presentation is quite nice. Each entree is served with an appetizer of focaccia or baguette bread, paired with a delicious olive tapenade dip.
The ambiance of the restaurant is semi-formal, with jazz music playing softly through speakers and prettily set tables. It is a calm and relaxing environment to socialize and dine with friends or family. They have outdoor seating under their tent, which I would recommend the most because it is decorated with plants and lights strung from the ceiling. They also have indoor seating in the front of their restaurant, with beautifully painted murals of Italy’s countryside, and seating next to their kitchen, with a display of Italian cyclists’ jerseys.
The wait time varies depending on the time of visit. Usually, in the early evening on weekdays, from around five to six, the wait time can be around ten to twenty minutes. They do not handle rushes all too well, with the wait time ranging from thirty minutes to an hour during the evening time on busy weekends. Regardless, the food is always held to a high standard, hot and fresh. They have friendly servers that check in every now and then throughout the meal. They are well-informed of the specials and the menu in general and are particularly helpful with substitutions in regard to dietary needs or restrictions.
The aura of the restaurant is lovely, with lots of senior citizens and middle-aged people, many of whom have good relationships with the owners of the restaurant. One of the owners, Rita Faglia, mentions that they were able to do so well and build such a great community from the “word of mouth” aspect of people dining in and having a great time, spreading the word to their friends and family to check out their establishment.
Riviera Ristorante has built a name for providing fresh ingredients and flavors for the past 20 years in the heart of Santa Rosa. Their authentic Italian cuisine is made for a reasonable price. Additionally, the sweet nature of the establishment has brought many people together over the past couple of decades and continues to today. I can imagine their restaurant remaining an original Sonoma County staple for many years to come. Ultimately, I would most definitely recommend checking it out with close friends and family.