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The Local Dish: 11/01/2013

The Local Dish

Luca Citti, owner of Café Citti

Luca Citti
Luca Citti, owner of Café Citti, was born and raised in Tuscany, Italy, in a large stone house built in the late 1500s. There was a cellar for making and storing wine and olive oil, a lower level for curing poultry, beef and veal, and a top level for the fresh vegetables and where the family lived. There was no running water until Citti was 15 years old. However, there was a bread oven, where Citti's mother would make the family's bread each week.

“And I was waiting for that day,” remembered Citti, “because I knew she would put some dough aside.” Citti's mother turned the extra dough into Pasta Fritta, a simple, delicious snack which Citti devoured. “I've got many favorite recipes, but this one sticks in my mind. I'm still crazy about it.”

Citti said Pasta Fritta could be served plain or cut open and stuffed with mozzarella or various meats like salami or pancetta. “I was the crazy eater of the family,” said Citti. His mother would send him off to school with Pasta Fritta packed for lunch and by the time he'd arrive, “it'd be all gone.”

Fresh bread was a staple in the Citti household of six. Citti said his mother would make it to use all week, often culminating in zuppa alla frantoiana, a soup made of the bread once it got hard. “I was watching all the time when she made bread, helping her make it,” said Citti. “Both my mom and my brother inspired me to become a baker.”

Citti's specialty is as a pastry chef and baker, and it's how he got his first job in the United States, working under celebrity chef Michael Chirello in St. Helena.

Then 20 years old, Citti had moved stateside with his brother, mostly for love. Citti met his wife, Linda, in his village, where she came to visit family on a regular basis. However, one summer, the former friendship blossomed into love. “When she left, I was desperate - both of us were - calling every week,” said Citti. It just so happened, his brother had taken an interest in Linda's sister and so the Citti brothers arrived in Sonoma County in 1987.

Three years later, Luca and Linda were married, and driving by Kenwood one day, they spied a tiny delicatessen off the highway. “We said, if we were to open a restaurant, that's the one we'd want,” said Citti. In 1990, Café Citti opened at its current location and has become a local favorite, even being featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Café Citti is located at 9049 Sonoma Hwy. in Kenwood, and is open seven days a week. It can be reached at 833-2690.

Pasta Fritta Lucchese

Serves 4 people

1_ lbs. unbleached flour

1_ cups lukewarm water

_ oz. fresh yeast

2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil

1 TBS. salt

1) Blend the yeast and the lukewarm water together.

2) In a medium bowl, put one pound of the flour (reserving the other _ pound for the kneading of the dough); add all the water/yeast mixture and olive oil and start to blend the ingredients with your hands until a smooth, elastic dough is formed.

3) Add the salt, kneading with the palm of your hand until absorbed. (About 10 minutes.)

4) Put the dough inside the previously used bowl, cover it with the leftover flour, and a dry towel.

5) Let it relax in a warm place for 45 minutes.

6) When the dough has doubled the original size, knead it again for 5 minutes and start to flatten it, with your rolling pin, until _ an inch thick.

7) With the help of a ravioli cutter, cut the dough in 3-inch by 6-inch diamond shapes.

8) In a large frying pan, add abundant canola oil or any other heat resistant oil.

9) When the oil gets hot, carefully add the dough, piece by piece, turning it when golden in color.

10) Sprinkle with a little salt, slice open, and serve hot with mortadella, salame, coppa or pancetta thinly sliced.

Great antipasto plate!

Buon Appetito!

- Luca Citti

Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.

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