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That's Amore

Rosso mixes it up at newest location

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FINGER LICKIN' ROTISSERIE CHICKEN Rosso goes well beyond pizza at its Dutton Avenue spot in Santa Rosa.
  • FINGER LICKIN' ROTISSERIE CHICKEN Rosso goes well beyond pizza at its Dutton Avenue spot in Santa Rosa.

Pizza, pasta and salads are a winning combination. Why mess with it?

Santa Rosa's Rosso Pizzeria could have gone with that formula at its North Dutton Avenue location and done just fine. They serve great pizza at their other Santa Rosa and Petaluma locations. But they dug a little deeper and have come up with something better.

Fourteen-month-old Rosso Rosticceria & Eventi offers pizza, yes, but it's the rest of the menu that interests me. There's a bit of everything. The spacious restaurant is surrounded by office parks and caters to desk jockeys with breakfast and an especially good lineup of lunch offerings. You'll never guess what "eventi" means: events, as in the space is available for private events.

I haven't yet tried breakfast, but I plan to next time I miss the meal at home. Rosso's got good-looking stuff like a spinach, bacon and pimento-cheese omelet served on a housemade croissant ($7.50), frittatas ($7.50) and "rotisserie hash" ($11.75)—eggs served with roast chicken or porcetta and peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and bacon.

Lunch is the main event. I love a good sandwich, and Rosso has them in spades. Your first stop should be the flagship porcetta sandwich ($9) served with salsa verde and arugula dressed with anchovies, parsley, capers and lemon. Rosso's porcetta, stuffed and roasted boneless pork, was crisp and aromatic, juicy and delicious. Stacked between ciabatta from the Cousteau Bakery, it's a high-caliber sando.

Just as good was the sirloin tip sandwich ($9), sliced slabs of juicy beef with chimichuri, caramelized onions and housemade aioli and a bowl of delicious beef broth for dunking. All the sandwiches come with a choice of one of two changing side salads. My favorite was the dino kale/quinoa salad.

For something more substantial than a sandwich, the rotisserie chicken is great, a quarter bird crisp and juicy from the broiler anointed with dollops of a Sriracha-like sauce.

Though I didn't have a pizza, I did have a "Roman pizza" ($3.50), which is really a crusty, well-toasted plank of focaccia with the toppings of the day. On my day, it was bacon, asparagus and blue cheese. Darn good.

One menu highlight is the shoestring fries tossed with strips of Black Pig bacon ($8). Bacon makes most things better, and it definitely elevates these featherweight fried potatoes. I loved the housemade catsup and aioli, but given the small size of the fries and the tiny ramekin the condiments are served in, more went on my fingers than on the fries. The lamb rosticcini ($8), four skewers of tender, oven-roasted lamb seasoned with lemon and harissa, a North African spicy pepper, is another good finger-food snack.

Service is fast and friendly. You order at the counter and grab a number and a seat. I didn't save room for the good-looking desserts, but I did enjoy the housemade chai and "Hong Kong" black tea made with sweet cream (both $3). There's also a small, well-chosen lineup of beer and wine.

Rosso Rosticceria succeeds because of the quality and variety of its food. It's quite reasonably priced, too. I could eat here several times a week and still look forward to going back.

Rosso Rosticceria & Eventi, 1229 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.526.1229.

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