Have you ever just happened upon a place and then wondered why it took you so long to discover it? I mean really. Well, I am about to introduce you to one of my favorite Bay Area finds.
A friend of mine took me to lunch yesterday to this little cafe in Palo Alto, which sits in a little old barn right next to California Cafe—a block down from the Stanford Shopping Center.
I’m a little inquisitive, so here’s what I learned over lunch: a young man named Rocco, born and raised in Italy, comes to America bringing with him his childhood recipes, along with experience and knowledge from his travels. He lands in Palo Alto, (California) meets a dreamy American girl, marries her and together they open a little cafe called Tootsie’s (forgot to ask about their name…as most of us in America would probably associate it with Dustin Hoffman’s movie “Tootsie” but regardless, Tootsie’s it is), lucky for us, they remain in Northern California to feed the hungry public of Palo Alto and all those (me) who will later travel to them because that’s just how good their food is.
I was so impressed by the charm of their tiny cafe, the friendliness of their staff and the big, glorious taste of their food. Tootsie’s offers some of the best authentic italian food I’ve eaten since….well, the last time I was in Italy. Go online and read the reviews yourself people…former Tootsie’s patrons want to be heard.
Everything is made with the freshest ingredients and all is homemade…even their potato chips. I myself recommend their Cavolini di Bruxelles aka broccolini salad, it is truly outstanding! On your way out, don’t forget to grab a bag of their apricot biscotti, sitting in glass jars next to the register. A little trivia for you: I learned yesterday that biscotti in italian means “baked twice” and Tootsies’ are only baked once so that they remain softer, so really, I don’t know what they’re called but they look similar to a biscotti and to me, they taste better. They’re perfectly perfect on their own or married to a lovely cup of tea or coffee.
I also got to taste their oven roasted Portobello sandwich on homemade foccacia. If you’re a vegan like me, it’s the best alternative to a juicy hamburger I’ve ever had.
Next time, I’m ordering the Arancini di riso, a saffron risotta ball stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served on wild arugula salad. I don’t care if I’m a vegan or not, I’m eating the cheese. I’m not kidding, when my friend opened up one of the crispy risottos, we both gasped at how gorgeous this piece of food looked: perfectly golden on the outside and creamy, cheesiness on the inside. Call me a foodie but I know what I’m talking about….you won’t be disappointed.
It didn’t hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day and we got to sit outside, european cafe style, with our amazing lunch and tall glasses of iced tea (maybe for a moment I even pretended I was back in Italy for a day). I had great company, great food and I loved listening to Rocco speak to his staff in Italian. This is definitely a romantic date, friends’ lunch, family meal, business meeting, type of eatery. I cannot wait to bring my husband and daughters for a surprise date in the near future. They’re gonna love it!
They have a small, but delightful team of help, including a pretty awesome chef named Sam. Thank you Rocco for a stellar lunch, a wonderful experience at your cafe and, I, for one think: if you haven’t been to Italy, go to Tootsie’s so that you can say you’ve eaten the food of Italy. I am just sure that their amazing recipes were developed over the years in the kitchen of Rocco’s nonna!
Bobby Flay: How about a “Throwdown”???