Tre Pazzi: Authentic Italian cuisine in Auburn

“A TRATTORIA IS A HOME AWAY FROM home for many Italians,” writes Biba Caggiano in “Trattoria Cooking.” “Eating in a trattoria is like eating with an Italian family.”

Dishes include lasagna, pan-roasted chicken, mussels and fish, pizzas and pastas and charbroiled meats. The atmosphere is cozy, lively and festive.

Restaurants such as Felice a Testaccio are Roman institutions, run by three generations of the same family. In the states, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are home to authentic trattorias, including Contadina in North Beach or Antica on Russian Hill.

Now the foothills has a traditional trattoria of its own, called tre Pazzi Trattoria, which opened in September. It is located in Auburn, just off a new town square that is revitalizing the downtown.

Tre Pazzi (or the “three crazies”) originates from a feud between the less powerful Tuscan nobles, the Pazzi’s, who dared replace the commanding Medici’s as rulers of Florence. In this case the “three crazies” are longtime friends and local restaurateurs Jim Bril, Gary Capps and Marcello Nolivo, who decided to open their trattoria in the height of a recession. Jim owns Monkey Cat and Marcello helps run Club Car, just up the street on Lincoln Way.

“When Auburn’s two longtime Italian restaurants closed, we decided to fill a void,” says Bril.

The trio settled on a historic building from the 1890s near the new town square. They decorated the used-brick walls with photos from their own trips to Italy shown on canvas and created a warm Tuscan decor with handsome wooden chairs and tables and hardwood floors. Italian music is softly piped through the comfortable 42-seat restaurant, filled with laughter and conversation at meal-times.

“This is tried-and-true Italian cooking: simple, fresh and made to order,” says Bril, a longtime manager and partner of the famous Fior d’Italia restaurant in San Francisco.

The ingredients include fresh pasta and tomato sauce, fresh greens and specialities such as imported white anchovy filets and Italian albacore tuna. The meat is top quality, including milk-fed veal from Wisconsin.

The entrees are reasonable, ranging from $10 to $16. Most pizzas are $9. An authentic “Lasagna tradizionale toscna” goes for $12 and is fresh pasta layers with homemade “sugo” (or meat sauce) and beschemel, topped with parmesan cheese.

Fresh pasta dishes include classics such as “pappardelle con funghi,” “pasta e pomodoro,” “tortellini panna e proscuitto” and “frutti di mare,” mussels, white fish and shrimp over linguini with a light white wine and tomato sauce.

There is “pollo arrosto,” fresh roastedhalf-chicken with rosemary and garlic; “vitello,” tender veal scallopini in a garlic mushroom marsala sauce; and “tagliatta,” charbroiled sirloin, sliced and served over a bed of sautéed spinich.

Four kinds of pizza are served, with ingredients including fresh tomato sauce, basil, Italian sausage, prosciutto, cheeses and anchovy. “Pizza tre Pazzi” includes mozzarella, tomato sauce, anchovy and arugula.

Desserts include tiramisu, lemon custard as well as “cannolo alla sicillano,” a cannoli shell filled with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips and dipped in chopped pistachio.

The wine list is all Italian and includes varietals from almost all the regions of the “boot.” Most wines are priced around $25. A glass of Italian wine is $6 or $7. A handy map on the menu helps identify where your wine comes from.

Tre Pazzi has been a hit since it opened. Reservations are not accepted. Should you have to wait, the newly completed streetscape—including a fire pit and benches—is ideal for a leisurely night-time stroll.

Fall is a beautiful time to visit this new foothills trattoria for the kind of old-fashioned comfort food that brings vitality to the trattoria tradition.

928 Lincoln Way, Auburn

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