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2010 Best of Sacramento Winner
3839 J St.
2010 Best of Sacramento Winner - Best Llittle Restaurant
It’s always delightful to discover a small, earnest neighborhood eatery, one that focuses its attention on the community in which it belongs and cherishes its regular customers. Formoli’s Bistro in East Sacramento—a teeny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it establishment located in a quirky, ramshackle retail strip on J Street, is just this type of eatery. A long narrow space with red wine-colored walls, warm earthy tile floors and funky artwork scattered throughout, the Bistro feels a little like someone’s classy, subterranean living room. The most notable feature of Formoli’s is the completely open kitchen, which allows diners to watch their meals being made as they chat and sip wine. It feels cozy and familiar, connecting the chef and his patrons in a unique way. There’s also a small counter area which wraps partially around the production area, which is a great spot for single diners or people who really want to observe the cooking process. Service is warm and efficient, and the space has a romantic vibe that makes it a nice venue for a meal with that Someone Special. The menu offers a number of small plates for folks who like to sample several different items. They range from a fragrant bowl of mussels, immersed in a red wine tomato broth; to tuna tartare (with a blood orange puree); and eggplant Napoleon. We enjoyed the warm Medjool dates, stuffed with goat cheese and pancetta, a wonderful juxtaposition of sweet and salty flavors. Entrees include a marvelous lamb stew, the perfect meal for a cold blustery evening—moist chunks of braised lamb shank lay atop a pile of wonderfully textured green lentils; and a first-rate penne pasta, swathed in a housemade tomato sauce and punctuated with spicy Italian sausage and arugula. The pepper-encrusted whiskey burger is a hugely popular item, served on a ciabatta bun with a whiskey demi glace and a habañero aioli; and the lively cous cous salad, on a bed of mixed greens with sautéed chicken, is another winner. Make reservations early (Formoli’s fills up quickly) and visit this friendly bistro for a nurturing, comfortable meal. — Kira O'Donnell
Insider tip: Formoli’s wine list is quite limited. If there’s a special wine you want with your meal, bring it from home—the restaurant’s corkage fee is only $8
Payment methods: AmEx, MasterCard, Visa
Alcohol: Beer and wine only
Corkage fee: $8
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: Lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Price Range: Inexpensive
2010 Best of Sacramento Winner: Editors' Pick
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