Monthly Archives: December 2017

Steppin’ Out – The Breakroom, Shingle Springs

In my 31 plus years of writing a restaurant column, I have rarely been surprised when I visited a restaurant. But that is exactly what happened about two weeks ago when my friend, Russ Salazar, and I visited The Breakroom in Shingle Springs. It is located at 4131 South Shingle Road, #7, in Shingle Springs Plaza, the buildings in front of the Shingle Springs Post Office.

From what I had read in their advertisements, it sounded like a sports bar or something similar to one: pool tables, arcade, dart boards, beer, wine and food. But I was wrong.

Because the front of the building faces south, all the windows are covered with a reflective, tinted plastic. Thus, when you arrive, you cannot see inside (but you can see outside from inside). When you open the door what you see is a well lit, very clean family friendly restaurant. The three pool tables, dart boards and arcade are also well lit and clean, but separated from the main dining area by low partitions.

My contact there was named Britney. She greeted us and then introduced us to the owner, a very lovely lady named Audrey Pearce. She would graciously take time to talk with us during our meal.

Although it was early afternoon, there were still a number of people eating, but there was plenty of room and we found a nice table as a smiling server brought us menus and then talked to us about the different dishes.

While she was getting us our drinks, we looked over the menu. I mentioned to Russ that a friend working in the restaurant business had said to me that this is her “Go to place” when she is eating out and that the burgers are great.

After our usual discussion, we decided on The Billiard Burger, which comes with house made ranch spread, spring mix, tomato, bacon, crispy fried onions, cheddar cheese, and drizzled with barbecue sauce. We also ordered Cool Kids Club, made with smoked turkey breast and country style ham topped with applewood smoked bacon, romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, red onion, dill pickles and creamy Havarti cheese with chipotle aioli on sourdough. Sandwiches come with fries, so we asked for both regular fries and seasoned fries.

Then we saw the Mac ‘n’ Cheese Cassoulet, made with cavatappi pasta smothered in a rich four cheese sauce topped with herbed bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and baked to order. That we had to try. And, yes, it was fantastic! The baking gave it a cheese crust that we fought over.

When the rest of our food arrived we first tried the burger. The one-third pound patty was moist and its artisan bun was thin like we like them. Russ noted that it held together and nothing fell out when you bit into it. Overall, it was excellent.

The Cool Kids Club was full of goodies and likewise delicious. The toasted sourdough and chipotle aioli really made the sandwich. Russ thought it had too much meat in it, then Audrey told us that they had actually reduced the amount of meat to get a better balance.

The regular fries were okay, but the seasoned fries were fantastic and even better when dipped in one of their eight dipping sauces. My favorites were the Inferno Buffalo, Ghost Pepper Ranch and Garlic Aioli. Yes, they also have Ranch, Bleu Cheese and regular Buffalo if you are not into hot.

On their menu are a whole list of Starters, including Wings Your Way, Bacon Cheese Fries Beer Cheese Dip and Pretzels, Chips & Salsa and a Basket O’ fries or onion rings.

The something Special list includes that great Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Fish ‘N’ Chips, Strips ‘N’ Chips and Pulled Pork Sliders.

Their Salads include a Buffalo Chicken, Cobb, House, “Hail Caesar,” Apple Balsamic and one called The Billiard: Spring mix topped with Cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, bacon, tomatoes and crispy fried onions, tossed in house made ranch and drizzled with barbecue sauce.

They also have a Daily Housemade Soup and very popular Turkey Chili, loaded with spicy seasoned turkey, beans, corn, green chiles, and topped with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese and corn chips.

They serve nine fantastic hand-pressed burgers, all with unique names and different ingredients. You can try them with chipotle coleslaw, grilled pineapple rings, sauteed mushrooms, bleu cheese and more. For our vegetarian friends, a black bean burger.

Their seven different sandwiches include the French Dip, Grilled Chicken,”Straight Up” B.L.T., Pesto Chicken Panini, Cubano Panini, the Club we tried and an Adult Grilled Cheese.

Not hungry for a sandwich? Try their tacos, made with carnitas or fish.

You and your kids are going to love the Kids (10 and under) Menu: “I don’t know” Chicken Bites, “I don’t care” Grilled Cheese, “I’m not hungry” Mac ‘n’ Cheese and “Whatever” Cheeseburger. All of the kids items are served with fries or seasonal fruit & their choice of milk, chocolate milk, apple juice or a kids soda.

Fall hours at The Breakroom are Tuesday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m. On Sunday and Monday they are closed for private events.

For more information call them at (530) 763-6761 or visit them online at, where you will find their whole menu and an interesting story on the owner.


They have an event room that seats 45+ and has a large TV for presentations along with free WiFi. It is great for birthdays, business meetings and more. Catering menu available.

Or, if you like, right now you can rent the whole facility on Sunday or Monday when they are closed.

Stop by, you will be glad you did. We were.

Steppin’ Out – Papa Gianni’s Ristorante, Cameron Park

I hadn’t realized it, but it had been years since I visited family owned, Papa Gianni’s Ristorante at 3450 Palmer Drive, Suite 1, in Cameron Park (opposite end of the shopping center from Bel Air).

This is a real, actual family run business that has been open for over 26 years specializing in traditional dishes based on recipes from Southern Italy. Each entrée is freshly prepared and made to order.

I think they were relatively new at the time I first dropped in for a meal. Everything I had then was delicious and this experience was the same, if not better.

We ended up having lunch there because Russ Salazar and I were trying to figure out a different place to visit one Tuesday. I think it was when Russ said that we hadn’t really had Italian food in some time and Papa Gianni’s came up. Fortunately, they were open on Tuesday and served lunch.

We walked in and were greeted by a lovely, smiling lady named Melissa who told us to sit anywhere we wished. It was late into lunchtime and, although there were a number of diners still finishing, we found a table set for two (cloth napkins, by the way) and in a short time Melissa reappeared, this time with menus, wine list and water.

Russ wanted to try a pasta dish and, after a discussion of several, picked simply spaghetti with meatball, served in a meat sauce. I, on the other hand, noticed they had a hot meatball and a hot sausage sandwich, both served on sourdough rolls.

For a few minutes I even thought about their cold Italian Submarine, filled with Soppressata, copocollo, mortadella, salami, pepperoni and provolone. However, I went for the sausage sandwich, made with their homemade Italian sausage and topped with marinara sauce and sautéed bell peppers (an added must for this sandwich).

Russ asked if they served milk (his restaurant test) and since they did, ordered it. I thought about a glass of wine, but stuck with water.

In a few minutes some garlic bread was brought to our table to tide us over until the food arrived. It was great and had a thick coating of Parmesan cheese. In all my years of cooking, I have never been able to make garlic bread as good as that I find at Italian restaurants.

The first item to arrive was my sausage sandwich, and it looked really good. The sausage was sliced in two and filled the sourdough roll. The first, and each succeeding bite was heavenly. It had just the right amount of everything in it. I offered Russ his half of the sandwich, but he wanted to start with the spaghetti, which arrived a minute or so later.

In the middle of the plate, on top of a large amount of well sauced al dente spaghetti, was one huge meatball. Russ cut it in two (it was still big when cut) and slid half of it, along with a helping of spaghetti and some of the very meaty sauce onto his plate. I stopped eating my sandwich and did the same.

I don’t cook a lot of spaghetti at home, usually going for angel hair or rottini if I do pasta, but this was excellent and the sauce and meatball were likewise great.

I used some of the sandwich roll to pick up the excess sauce. Russ was really into the garlic bread and did the same with it. He even got our server to bring some more so he wouldn’t run out.

Yes, Russ did get to the sausage sandwich and liked it, especially with the peppers in it, but for sure the spaghetti was his favorite. It is amazing that something so simple can be so delicious.

The lunch menu, served only Tuesday thru Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., includes the following pastas: Spaghetti Marinara, Spaghetti with Meatball, Fettuccini Alfredo, and Ravioli. The Al Forno (oven baked dishes) include Lasagna, Manicotti and Eggplant Parmigiana.
Hot sandwiches include the homemade Meatball and Sausage I mentioned, along with Chicken Parmigiana. For cold sandwiches you can choose from the Italian Submarine and a Caprese.

The menu ends with a Mini Cheese Pizza made with your choice from quite a list of toppings.

The dinner menu is huge and too big to print here. You can read it, and their large local and Italian wine list, on their webpage at

In addition to my previously mentioned lunch hours, for dinner they are open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 until 9, Friday and Saturday from 5 until 10 and on Sunday from 5 until 9. Last Seating: 30 minutes prior to closing. For more information call (530) 672-2333.

By the way, our lunch cost less than most of the other lunches we have recently had at fast food restaurants.