The grist mill in Glen Ellen’s Jack London Village, built in the 1830s by General Mariano Vallejo, has a long history of failed restaurants. But its latest incarnation as Aventine Glen Ellen is changing all that.
Since its opening on the Fourth of July, the parking lot has been crammed with cars and the tables inside and out have been full of patrons. Even the mill’s old water wheel is spinning again. The rustic interior, with lots of raw wood, has been nicely spruced up.
Rickety decks around the building have been replaced by generously proportioned sturdy decking overlooking Sonoma Creek. Folks seated there are protected from the midsummer sun by tall trees whose roots, dipping into the creek water, support leafy canopies high overhead. Executive chef Adolfo Veronese, his brother Gian-Paolo and partner Rodrigo Nevado are the owners responsible for the improvements. Adolfo learned about Italian cooking at his father’s restaurant, Osteria Romana, in San Francisco, then continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America in New York before working at a series of successful restaurants including Adolfo’s in San Francisco’s North Beach, Valentino in Las Vegas, and the restaurants of Wolfgang Puck’s Fine Dining Group.
Another thing Adolfo evidently learned is that if you want to ensure success in the restaurant business, think Italian. He and his partners opened Taverna Aventine in San Francisco in 2007, Aventine Hollywood in 2012, and now Aventine Glen Ellen. All three menus feature classic Italian dishes.
The full bar and sports on the large-screen TV help draw customers, as does the corkage policy: no corkage on the first bottle you bring in, as long as it’s not on the restaurant’s wine list. The charge is $15 for each subsequent bottle brought in.
The wine list itself is well chosen, if a trifle confusing. The 2012 Imagery “White Burgundy” is $57 a bottle, about double what you would pay at the nearby winery. But unlike white wine that’s actually from Burgundy, it’s made from pinot blanc and pinot meunier as well as chardonnay. For something to go with your pizza, a glass of Feudo Maccari Nero d’Avola is $9.
The place is well staffed, especially with the young and inexperienced. On a first visit, the waiter went through the menu telling us what he “really, really liked.” Instead, I’d suggest asking the customer what he or she likes and then pointing them to items on the menu that might please them.
The food at Aventine is good Italian aimed at the American palate. For instance, the Aventino ($15 ***) is pricey for an appetizer that’s one meatball the size of a handball sitting on a bed of soft polenta, but it’s delicious, with the ground meat soft and fluffy from the inclusion of mozzarella, pesto, and chopped golden raisins.
A drizzling of intense balsamic vinegar pulled the focus away from the delicate flavors of four sautéed, prosciutto-wrapped jumbo shrimp in the Gamberoni ($17 **) appetizer. The Zuppa del Giorno ($7 **) was pureed parsnip in chicken broth, but somehow the distinctive flavor of parsnip was missing.
Rosso, Verde, e Giallo Insalata ($9 **½) was fresh and coolly crunchy, with red radicchio, yellow Belgian endive leaves, green lettuces, pecan bits and, for the color blue, a small slab of gorgonzola cheese, all in a light lemon and honey dressing.
Luther Burbank Rose Parade winners
Antique or classic auto; Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
Band, elementary school: Rincon Valley Royals
Band, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School
Band, high school: Rancho Cotate High School
Band, out of county high school: Compton High School
Band, non-school: The Remedies, presented by Sutter Health
Color guard, adult: Santa Rosa Police Department
Costume group, adult: Dan Gighaus Elvis impersonator
Costume group, youth: Franklin Park Co-Op Preschool
Cultural dance: Cesar Chavez Ballet Folklorico
Cultural, other display: Sons of Italy
Costume heritage: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetary
Drill team, elementary: Strawberry School
Drill team, high school: Montgomery High School
Drum major, elementary: Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School
Drum major, middle school: Rincon Valley Charter
Drum major, high school: Elsie Allen High School
Flag team, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary
Flag team, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School
Flag team, high school: Rancho Cotate High School
Float, commercial: Friedman's Home Improvement
Float, nonprofit: Sonoma County Fair
Mace drum major, high school: Rancho Cotate High School
Military or veterans group: Marine Corps League Det. 686
Mounted authentic novelty: The Mask of Zorro
Mounted group: Rancho La Potranca/Ignacio Manzo
Pooper scooper: The Mask of Zorro
Novelty group, commercial: Santa Rosa Gymnastics Center
Novelty group, nonprofit: Sonoma County Library
Unit ID, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary
Unit ID, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School
Unit ID, high school: Rancho Cotate High School
Henry Trione Award: Best Overall Equestrian Entry: The Mask of Zorro
Best Tribute to Luther Burbank: Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
Best Use of Color: Cesar Chavez Language Academy & Ballet Folklorico
Best Use of Roses: LandPaths
Best Use of Theme: Friedman's Home Improvement
Thomas P Keegan Award: Best Entry Using Local History: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery
Sweepstakes Award, Best Unit in the Parade: Sonoma County Fair
John Bugbee Memorial Perpetual Trophy, best county high school entry: Rancho Cotate High School