2010 Best of Sacramento Winner - Best Place to Remember the Way Things Were
In an era of overly complicated menu descriptions, esoteric ingredients and “artisan” cocktails, there is real comfort to be found in eateries such as The Espanol, which has been in business since 1923. Established in Old Sacramento as a Basque boarding house, original owner Castro Arrate’s mission was to feed the city’s sheepherder community, a group of hungry laborers hired out to local ranchers. The food back then—robust and belly-filling—included items such as oxtail stew, pig knuckles and lamb chops. Over the years, the cuisine morphed from Basque to hearty Italian fare, and the restaurant moved from Old Sacramento to its current location on Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento. Now owned by the Luigi family, the restaurant serves up history and Italian comfort food in equal portions. Many of the staff members have been with the family for years, and the restaurant has a very loyal fan base that patronizes regularly. The ambience isn’t fancy—just red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and a few old-style paintings hanging on the beige walls, but service is genuinely warm and food portions are extremely generous. Don’t miss the excellent eggplant Parmesan, or the spaghetti with its delicious, housemade meatballs. Other customer faves include the very garlicky garlic fried chicken and the rib-sticking lasagna. All meals come with the kitchen’s soothing, vegetable-packed minestrone, a salami-topped green salad, and a bowl of spumoni or vanilla ice cream. Parents: this is a great place for families. The staff is very child-friendly and welcoming. — Kira O'Donnell
Insider tip: The restaurant has a convivial bar area, separated from the restaurant by a wall.
Reservations: Recommended on weekend evenings
Payment methods: AmEx, Discover Card, MasterCard, Visa
Alcohol: Full bar
Corkage fee: $10
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: Lunch 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; Dinner 4–9 p.m. Sunday: Dinner menu only 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. all day Monday: Closed