Finally made it to Semolina Kitchen + Bar - somehow it just kept falling off my radar even though I am big fan of Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis. It was clear at lunch yesterday (Friday) that we are very late to this party. Got there, we thought, on the late side, around 1:15 pm and it was still hopping. We both loved the look of the place - I called it 1970’s Cali/Berkeley style. Lots of wood accents and plants. But despite the soft surfaces, it was really loud - even spring onion made that comment. I can’t imagine the fun during weekend dinner when the bar is at capacity, so we’ll restrict our visits to lunchtime. Because we will be back, again and again. This was gluten/carb nirvana for us. One misstep - B ordered the cheese fries (not my choice) which came out floppy but with a tasty tzatziki sauce for dipping (he had to ask for another portion of sauce since it’s a bit on the stingy side). Spring onion loved his margherita pizza - B and I restrained ourselves and only nibbled at his leftover crusts and brought the rest of the pie home. A quibble - while the heel of the crust is blistery, the bottom is not. They use (surprise!) semolina to “flour” the pie and the bottom is rather flat and perhaps lacking character. My mushroom broccolini tagliatelle was superb - served in a bowl with lots of unctuous sauce, pasta perfectly cooked, broccolini still crisp. I only wanted more acidity to cut through the sauce but I pretty much licked the bowl. Across the table, B was loving his piri piri chicken sandwich. Not like versions he had in Portugal, but enough heat to make him break out in sweats. He was surprised at the level of heat. Good wines by the glass as expected (I loved the red “Privo”). B stuck with draft beers. We have our sights set on a few pizzas for our next visit. I can’t judge the pizza on looks alone since I didn’t actually have a slice.
PS Places function is not working for me (I keep getting an error message) so I simply provided a hyperlink in my post.
That all sounds great, especially your pasta!
We love it, too, go 2 - 3 times a month for Saturday lunch. We get the Italian sandwich with extremely high quality charcuterie grilled with extra hots all the time because it’s so good and so much better than Italian sandwiches anywhere else. We also love the fried olives and banana peppers, the housemade meatballs with ricotta, and some of the pizzas, and the salads. We’d branch out but we love these menu items so much we haven’t. We did get a broccolini side once but found it undercooked and very small portion for $8. I always go to the freezer compartment at the back to look over the Jeni’s ice cream but I haven’t brought any home, yet. Parking is free in the adjacent Tufts lot on Saturdays and I think the street metered parking is also free on Saturdays. Sometimes lots of cute little kids there at Sat. lunch and that’s a bonus for me. Maybe we’ll see you there one Saturday!
Strangely, my favorite dish that I’ve had there in 3 visits is the spiralized zucchini noodles with pesto cream sauce and mushrooms. I am not one to avoid carbs, but for some reason this became my go-to there. It’s incredibly rich and usually lasts me two meals. Agree on extremely loud.
We’ve only been for lunch on Saturday or a weekday, on the early side, and it’s not noisy then. With all those hard surfaces and the small dining area, I can easily imagine how noisy it could get when close to capacity. We had several server glitches in the first months they were open…like putting us at a two top right next to, and very close to a 4 top with two young children in an otherwise empty and small dining area and then surprised we wanted a bit of small distance…servers who may have been college students completely clueless about how to be a server…but last few months, they have great server staff and the bartender is also wonderful.
To echo Digga’s OP. We finally made it over to Semolina Kitchen and will definitely be back. In terms of a full service Italianish bistro, our first experience at Semolina puts it above similar places like Posto.
Reservations are definitely recommended as the seating is somewhat limited. It seems they tend to funnel people with children down the side toward the take out coolers. We had to specifically request to sit in the main area adjacent to the bar which has a more open atmosphere.
The Cape Cod oysters were fresh and well shucked. We tried several (pepperoni, margherita, eggplant basil pizza). All were tasty and well prepared. I would give the pizza a solid B. The eggplant pie could have used a bit more sauce, but the eggplant pieces were well fried and a bit crispy. The pizzas are sized a bit larger than a personal pizza, but not quite enough for 2 people (at least not the way we eat pizza). I would recommend ordering more rather than less as it does travel well for the next day.
We did not try any entrees or specials (of which there were many). However the cacio e pepe was a very nice rendition, highlighted by the pasta from Dave’s.
Service was excellent and friendly. it is nice to have a full bar offered, however my negroni was not the best I’ve had and not particularly well balanced. The menu is broad enough to offer something for everyone. I’ll look forward to returning and trying more dishes. The salads and other items we eyed going by all looked inviting. There was ample metered parking on Boston Ave right in front of the restaurant.
I’m always amazed when this happens. The drink is all equal parts!
The last time I went to Semolina I had a really good plate of carbonara. It’s a good solid spot.
Yeah, this one was a bit sweet which leads me to believe they went heavy on the vermouth which is the worst of the 3 directions to be off (for my taste).
Definitely Semolina over Posto any day. Posto in Davis is not even close to what it once was IMHO. Pastas are usually solid, interesting daily specials posted to Instagram. Now that patio season is over a reservation is a good idea.
The only thing they lack is an espresso maker. I enjoy a macchiato every now and then after dinner.
more recently we’ve been at Semolina Kitchen for Saturday lunch on the early side when only one or two other tables were occupied, and the music was blaringly loud. The first time the staff turned it down themselves but on another two occasions we had to ask them to turn it down to hear each other at all. They did, but weren’t happy about it as apparently the staff likes it very, very loud.
I would do the same thing, ask that the music be turned down.
I think it’s important to ask if it’s possible to turn down the music. Seems to be a theory that loud music makes it more inviting. Doesn’t for many. I hope to air the opinion that loud music is a turnoff, especially in an otherwise empty restaurant where there is no other “softer” noise to muffle it.
I know that loud music/ambient noise is a dealbreaker for my husband and me. I wonder if several of us emailing or facebook messaging might help management at least be aware that some of us enjoy conversing with our dining companions.