Dining out in Grass Valley

ALONG WITH OTHER FOOTHILL towns, Grass Valley’s dining scene expresses its own local traditions: Cornish pasties, Italian food and Asian cuisine from its Gold Rush heritage, along with fresh fruits, vegetables and free-range meats from surrounding farms and ranches. It also mirrors the trend of culinary innovation in small towns across America, including a chef’s table dining experience.

Talented chefs and restaurateurs also have relocated to Grass Valley from bigger cities for the unhurried lifestyle, arts and culture scene and great outdoors. They are helping to invigorate the dining scene, putting the town on the culinary map.

Examples include Steve Graham of the Owl Grill & Salon, a successful restaurateur-chef from Silicon Valley; and Susan Purdy, her daughter, Angie, and her husband, Frank Cooney of Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro from Marin County. Susan and Frank have six decades and four generations of combined restaurant experience.

“Basically we came here for dinner one night and never left,” says Susie, summing up their somewhat spontaneous decision to purchase Tofanelli’s in 2005. The dinner selections draw from Susan’s background as a French chef and are influenced by Frank’s favorites from his family’s Italian-style restaurants in San Francisco and San Jose.

Others who are shaping Grass Valley’s dining scene include Amy Cooke, owner of Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli, an organic food pioneer going back to the ‘80s, when she was a chef at an inn outside Santa Fe, NM; and chef-owner Gianfranco Maffezzoni of Trattoria Milano, born in Milan and trained at one of its culinary institutes.

Cirino’s on Main Street is a pioneer of first-rate dining in Grass Valley. Jerry Cirino opened Cirino’s at Main Street in 2003. The restaurant has a menu of 70 items as well as specials, including time-honored Italian recipes and Mediterranean food. Cirino’s signature Bloody Mary is popular and the mix is now for sale at CirinosBMM.com.

Kane’s Family Restaurant features homestyle Italian-American cooking patterned after Original Joe’s in San Francisco.

Tess’ Kitchen Store cooking school features a chef’s table dining experience with Alan Tangren, a veteran of Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

At Maria’s Mexican restaurant, Maria Ramos and her daughter, Gina, and the staff offer authentic Mexican cuisine. The dishes are prepared from scratch using family recipes. Maria’s margaritas are among the best around.

Asian restaurants include Kaido for sushi and other Japanese food and Taste of Thai, a locals’ favorite. Kaido offers sushi platters “to go” for the Super Bowl, a tradition for the Japanese restaurant.

(Photo: Kial James)

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