Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ode to Riviera Ristorante

I have mentioned Riviera Ristorante numerous times in this blog.  It is a great  Italian restaurant that is one of the favorites of the cycling community.  It is a fabulous little place owned and run by Giampaolo, Luca and Rita.  After all these years, I decided it was time to let the rest of you know just how great these people really are.

Let’s start by saying all three of them are great riders.  Some of the stories about them have become legendary.  There is the time Giampaolo dropped half the Astana team on a local climb or the story of him riding the Terrible Two every year in about 11 hours and then working in the restaurant the rest of the night.  Luca has been heard to cook all through lunch and then get in a “quick” 75 mile ride before coming back to prepare for the dinner crowd.  Rita once ask friends if they wanted to join her for a short ride that turned into a 90-mile adventure on nothing but one water bottle and two pieces of focaccia.  I happen to know that at least two of these stories are true (I’ll  let you decide which two).  The point is, these folks are strong riders.

IMG_3079 Maybe it’s not so surprising that their restaurant would become a gathering place for cyclists.  And, I’m not just talking about the locals.  Of course we all eat there often but so does some of the greatest cyclists in the world.  We have our local pros Levi, Scott and Steve as well as local Teams BMC and Bissell who are all there on a regular basis.  However, we also get to see pro teams from around the world as they come to Wine Country for training camps.  I’ll be there waiting for an order to go and Giampaolo might tell me, in his Italian accent, something like Team HTC-Columbia called for dinner reservations.  I also know that Team Radio Shack and Team Astana have held dinners there are well.

This close connection to the international cycling community means that they have an  impressive collection of signed jerseys, photos and other memorabilia.  So, while the food is definitely Italian, the decor is cycling.  There are enough framed signed jerseys on the walls to make the US Cycling Hall of Fame jealous. 

IMG_0322However, here’s the real deal.  You could replace each and every jersey with fine needle point “art” from Ben Franklin Crafts and I would still eat there just as often as I do today.  Why?  Because their food is just that good.  It takes more then a few jerseys and the occasional mention of Dura Ace to attract food savvy Wine Country cyclists.  It takes great food with good wine and Riviera has both.  While I have my favorite dishes I always have to hear the specials first.  There are a few specials that appear regularly and some of these are simply too good to pass up.  (I wonder when they will have the spaghetti and crab pasta special again?)

Now, here’s where it all comes together.  A few months ago Riviera was closed for remodeling the garden patio.  And, while they were only closed for two weeks, the patio was out-of-commission for a while reducing their capacity by about 20 diners.  They also closed for lunch completely until the patio was complete.  If you’ve ever run a business then you know that when you are not open you are not making money.

IMG_3083 That’s when the cycling community rallied to help jump start Riviera with its new and improved patio.  Jonathan Lee, team director for the Red Peloton, send out emails, tweets, FB invitations, and any thing else you can think of to invite cyclist to the Jump Start Riviera dinner on August 30th.  The 78 available seats sold out in about two days.  So, there is a second one on September 6th.  I was at the first one and you can bet I will be there tomorrow as well.

After all, it’s the least I (we) can do for a group of people who have done so much for our cycling community.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to place my order.


1 Comment(s):

Unknown said...

very nice write up on the greatest place in town! keep up the lvoe and the great diplomacy!! thanks Lee