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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Dining in Davis: Paesanos

In Review: Paesanos

Hours: Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Food: ***

Ambience: ****

Cost: $


Food and ambience quality

**** I’m dining here every day

*** Almost like eating at home

** Better than my roommate’s cooking

* Only if I’m starving


$$ chancellor $20+

$$ professor $15-20

$ graduate student/alum $10-15

$ undergraduate $5-10

There’s something to be said for a classy restaurant that not only boasts a great happy hour and a variety of unique and delicious appetizers and entrees, but is also conveniently located in the heart of downtown, making it an easy walking distance to every movie theater and bar Davis has to offer.

The new Italian eatery Paesanos opened in early September, making it the third location in addition to the Sacramento and Elk Grove sites. When I heard that the owners were opening up a new location in Davis, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I’d make the time to try out Paesanos for myself. I rallied an admittedly large and obvious group of friends who were more than happy to grub and stake out a new restaurant with me, and made reservations for a Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.

That night, after anticipating dinner all day, a few of us decided we couldn’t wait to blow off steam after our long week and headed to the restaurant an hour earlier to catch the happy hour specials. Since it was my first time in the restaurant, I couldn’t help but appreciate the ambience. The walls had a tasteful selection of Italian-themed art all the way up to the refreshingly high ceilings, and the brown tones and soft lighting made it an instantly comfortable dining environment. The service, too, was pleasant right off the bat. Although it was clearly a peak hour of business when we arrived, the hosting staff was more than polite, seating us close to the bar and managing to take orders and serve us our drinks and appetizers before the specials ended at 6 p.m.

Paesanos’ happy hour menu includes all of the cocktails, wines and draft beers it usually offers, but for around half of the regular price. A few favorites were the watermelon lemonade ($4), sangria ($4 for a large glass) and the Island Girl Martini ($3).

Appetizers (all $4 each) took around 15 minutes to arrive, but when they did, we were more than satisfied with our hearty portions of deep fried, salty snacks that did more than just curb our appetites before dinner. The fried ravioli dish came with around 10 crispy pockets of spinach and cheese with marinara sauce on the side for dipping. We also ordered two plates of polenta fries, which were lightly fried on the outside and softer on the inside and served with balsamic ketchup and a gorgonzola cheese sauce for dipping. Both appetizers were unlike anything I’d eaten before, and unusually filling. We could have easily split one of each among six people, but even with everyone ordering their own, each tab only came out to around eight dollars. Not bad at all for a good drink and a full stomach.

The hostess moved our group from the bar to a long table promptly at 6:30 p.m. and orders were taken by 6:45 p.m. After the waiter took our orders, rosmary focaccia bread was served for the whole table, with balsamic vinegar and garlic pieces on the side.

Although the appetizers and breadbaskets were delicious, the length of time it took for our entrees to be brought out was a bit disappointing. By the time everyone was served, it was 7:45 p.m., and few of us had any room to enjoy the supposed highlight of our meal. Truthfully, the majority of the main courses were packed up in Styrofoam boxes and consumed later in the night, but we did, slowly, get to taste a sufficient amount of dishes to get an idea of the range of the whole menu.

The handful of us that ordered sandwiches were pleased by the unique flavors. They could have been bigger for the price, but each did come with a nice portion of side salad. I ordered the Tacchino ($8.95), which came with deli turkey meat, sweet balsamic onions and Swiss cheese, definitely something I would order again.

Paesanos also offers a ton of tasty options for personal pizzas, from the Mushroom Formaggio ($10.95), which was a deliciously cheesy treat topped with huge slices of two types of mushrooms, to the Gorgonzola and Fuji Apple Pizza (also $10.95).

The pasta dishes, which seemed to be the kitchen specialty, were huge and served with garlic bread on the side. Gemelli Spinaci ($9.95) was a good, hearty portion of pasta twists on a bed of spinach with garlic cream sauce. The Pork Fusili (also $9.95) was intensely flavored gingery braised pork served with pasta twists. The Spicy Creole ($10.95) was a different type of spicy, but still tasty, complete with shrimp, chicken, ham and sausage.

A particular favorite of the night was the Caribbean Salmon Salad ($10.95). It was decently priced for a seafood dish, with seared salmon, mangoes, goat cheese and candied pecans. Unlike the side salads that came with the sandwiches, the salad seemed very freshly tossed, and not at all soggy. A few bites made me sure of what I would order to eat upon my next visit.

In review, we found that while Paesanos offers quite the delectable assortment of entrees, the slow service doesn’t really leave room to showcase them, as they are overshadowed by their appetizers and their overflowing supply of free bread. But I found Paesanos to be a great place to begin a night out with good friends, unwind during happy hour and enjoy some unique Italian-inspired food.

LANI CHAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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