Steppin’ Out – The (Little Italian) Place, Placerville

For the past couple of weeks, Facebook has been alive with comments about the recent opening of The Place, a small Italian restaurant at the southwest corner of Pleasant Valley and Buck’s Bar roads, a few miles east of Diamond Springs.

Russ Salazar and I don’t usually visit restaurants this soon after they open, but when I saw they had a meatball “Grind-ah” I had to go.

Years ago, when I lived in southern California, my brother and I would go to the parking lot of a local supermarket and from a small trailer buy a meatball grinder, which was a long Italian roll full of warm meatballs, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. To it the proprietor would offer a generous sprinkle of crushed chile flakes, which he, and the two of us, believed completed the sandwich. They were delicious and often the dinner for we two bachelors.

Obviously, when I saw The Place had the meatball “Grind-ah” on their menu, I knew I couldn’t wait to try it.

If you are wondering, the words Submarine, Hoagie and Grinder are the names of similar sandwiches with different origins, be it location or the group who named it. Most are on a long roll, but sometimes aren’t.

I’m still a bit incapacitated due to a recent total knee replacement, so Russ offered to come by my house, pick me and my walker up and take us to The Place. Although it was close to 2 p.m. on a Saturday (and their Grand Opening Weekend), we were able to find a parking place near the door and seats inside at a table with higher chairs (easier for me to get in and out of).

Once you find a table, you follow a line by the menu, which is posted on the wall, order your food at the counter and they give you a number for your table. Russ did all the hard work and ordered us a Meatball “Grind-ah” and a Sausage “Grind-ah.” A few minutes later he would add a small slice of Truffled Mushroom Sicilian Pizza, which is pre-made and offered cold or warmed. He opted to have it warmed.

He wanted a diet soda to have with his meal, but their selection of sodas are all in bottles and a bit fancy for him. He and I both decided to have water, which the have self-serve with lemon in it.

Soon the sandwiches, both on house baked rolls, arrived and we split them.

I started with the meatball “Grind-ah” and it was delicious, albeit a bit bland for me. It contained handmade meatballs, marinara, provolone and mozzarella.

I asked the always smiling and very friendly lovely young lady who delivered our food for some crushed chilies to put on my sandwich (don’t most pizza places have packets of those?) and was told they did not have them. It was still very good, but I believe it would have been better with a bit of a bite from them. Russ like it, but thought it tasted a bit too canned “tomatoey.”

The Sausage “Grind-ah” was a complete surprise. It contained slow cooked Italian sausage, onions, roasted peppers, smoked mozzarella and Dijon.

I expected pieces of the usual fatty and delicious Italian sausage like are found on most pizzas, but these were a different type of Italian sausage, drier and sliced thin. It was very good, the flavors really worked together and, as with the other sandwich, the bread was outstanding.

The Sicilian Pizza was on a spongy, inch thick crust with truffled mushrooms, caramelized onions, asiago, mozzarella and olive oil. I loved the taste and the crust, but Russ thought there was really too much crust. “Pizza has vastly improved since they went to super thin crusts,” he commented to me. I guess he should stay away from Sicilian pizza with its thick crust.

Their menu starts with a list of Antipasti from Garlic Cheese Bread to Bruchetta and “Mickey’s Big Balls” (a meatball sandwich minus the bread). These are followed by the Insalata, which include The Original Grammy’s, Caesar, Caprese and more.

The Panini & Grind-ah’s include a Caprese, Sweet Smokey Chicken and the two we tried.

Under Piatto di Pasta you will find Smokey Maccheroni e Formaggio, Linguine Bolognese, Pesto di Limone, Boscaiola, Linguini Marinara, Ravioli e Pornodoro and a 10 layer Lasagne alla Bolognese (limited amount, served Friday and Saturday only)

Finally, what you are probably looking for, Pizza and Calzones. These are prepared with 24 hour fermented dough and baked in a 700 degree wood fired oven.

The mouth watering list includes Trio Formaggio, Quattro Formaggio, Smokey Mushroom, Americana, Salaciccia, Mickey’s Meatball, The Green Monsta’, the True Woodsman, Sweet Pig, the House Margherita and Prosciuto. Oh, for dessert Tiramisu and Cannoli, both handmade.

Beer, wine and bottled soda are available to accompany your meal.

The Place is presently open from noon until 8, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, and until 9 or later Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Both outdoor and indoor seating available, but remember, it is a small restaurant.

For more information, call (530) 621-1680 or visit thelittleitalianplace.com. And yes, this The Place has the same owner and chef as the very popular The Place in Roseville.

Oh, while waiting for your food, check out the lamp shades made from old tomato cans, colanders and even a giant whisk from a commercial mixer.

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