Photograph by Michael Amsler
Rice & Peas
Petaluma's Risibisi is an authentic bit of Italy
By Morgan Carvajal
Located at the heart of downtown Petaluma, Risibisi offers authentic Italian dishes and an intimate dining atmosphere. Coming here can feel like being transported to a small northern Italian town, full of romance and brilliance. Since September 2006, Risibisi has offered high-quality service and a high-quality product for a reasonable price. Restaurant owner Marco Palmiere has a vision for culture, tradition and dining.
Palmiere grew up in Trieste, just outside of Venice, Italy, and has a passion for dining and the fast-paced restaurant business, striving to create a cultural experience for customers. After living in California for nearly 20 years, he decided that Petaluma's easy-going and approachable community made the area right for their restaurant vision. Serving local, organic foods and offering an alternative healthy way to dine has made Risibisi successful.
"The toughest thing about this business is finding the right person with the proper passion and attitude," Palmiere says. Jacob Gamba, general manager and wine director, picks the restaurant's wine collection, keeping his palate lively by tasting in Italy each year. The collection of over 300 wines is kept in a climate-controlled cellar, and is divided between 70 percent Italian and 30 percent Californian wines.
"We like to have a role in helping the community get to know Italian wines," Palmiere says.
Chef Giuliana Valesi, who grew up in Tuscany, has been on board at the restaurant for a year. She's proven her culinary talent with a crowd-pleasing menu inspired by the nearby coast and made up of seafood specialties. Seafood still comes second to the restaurant favorite risotto, a staple dish for Italian cuisine, and the restaurant's namesake, "risibisi," a peas and rice comfort food of the area. Valesi also prepares all of the desserts in-house and has full reign over the menu.
Palmiere is looking to expand and open another restaurant by 2011, as well as launch and become competitive in the catering market this year. In order to stay on top in the business, restaurant employees are taught to ask themselves, "Would we be a successful restaurant in Italy?"
Palmiere refers to Italians as the masters of the Slow Food movement, as sitting down and eating healthy food with friends is part of the culture. "When you find good people everything falls into place."
Risibisi is in the $39 prix fixe category for Sonoma County Restaurant Week. 154 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 707.776.7600.
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