11 September 2006

Michelangelo’s, an Italian art restaurant in Sacramento

Okay. The first thing I want to say is I wish I had brought my camera because the image of Michelangelo’s from the internet does not do it justice. I mean really. Does this look like an art restaurant, for heaven’s sake?

But it is. The art is good, and the food is wonderful.

This was my second visit to Michelangelo in Sacramento. The first was a very similar business trip. I’m in town just overnight. I couldn’t bring myself to pay an outrageous rate for a ‘business’ hotel downtown, so I’m staying at a Clarion in the midtown district. But the best thing about staying here is that I discovered Michelangelo just a three block walk away. So when I set up this trip, I knew right away that I wanted a return visit to the restaurant.

The shtick is that the restaurant is affiliated with an art gallery. Really cool. The restaurant décor is stone tile flooring, wooden tables and chairs, rustic ceiling, and eclectic art on the walls. I arrived before my dinner guest and had a drink at the bar. I ordered a ‘Lemon Halo.’ It was vodka, lemon flavored spring water, and limoncella, served in a martini glass with a coating of sugar on the rim. Yummy.

A group of gay men were ordering gin & tonics before touring the gallery. They commented that the painting over the bar was the ‘gayest’ portion of the Sistine Chapel. I knew I was in for a good evening.

I was entertaining a California dairy industry leader. No agenda, just to discuss things happening in the industry, in Sacramento and Washington, DC. We’re friends and have known each other for a few years.

We decided to order a bottle of wine. He deferred to me. I felt self-conscious ordering an Italian wine in California, but I couldn’t resist the Barbera d’Alba by Bricco Quattro Fratelli.

Sorry, but I have to insert a diversion from the restaurant review.

I have a former boss and friend who, when he retired, rented a villa in Eze, France, near Nice. My wife and I visited him while he was there. We had a wonderful time touring the little mountain villages along the Mediterranean. One day, we drove into Italy to check out a local market in Sanremo. We had a great day shopping, including picking up food to prepare at the villa that evening. We bought a Barbera d’Alba at the market, and it was outstanding. The one I drank in Sacramento reminded me of it.

So, back to Michelangelo. They served a nice bread basket with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I asked for butter, and they graciously served it. My only disappointment was that it wasn’t Land O'Lakes brand.

My guest ordered the evening specialty – shrimp spiedini, skewered shimp served on a lemon mascarpone risotto. The shrimp were nicely grilled; the risotto was rich and creamy. I ordered the grilled ahi tuna with fresh tomato caper sauce over penne. The tuna was two pieces of steak cut about ½ inch thick. I had ordered it seared, and I was concerned that the thin pieces got overdone. But they were just the way I like it – hot on the outside, rare and cool in the middle.

We both enjoyed our meals immensely and didn’t let discussion of business diminish the ambiance of the restaurant nor the enjoyment of the meal.

If you’re ever in Sacramento and want to try a unique, casual Italian venue, I would recommend Michelangelo’s.

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