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Poggio Trattoria: A Taste of Italy

Along Sausalito’s waterfront boulevard is a restaurant reminiscent of those found along the Amalfi Coast. In its 16- year history, since legendary restaurateur Larry Mindell opened its doors, Poggio has become a well-loved, classic Italian trattoria with comfortable neighborhood charm and destination-caliber cuisine. The restaurant is at once quintessentially Italian and at ease in its Northern California locale. Utilizing the best local ingredients, Poggio’s daily changing menu features soulful classics of Northern Italy that are simply and earnestly prepared.

A warm, convivial ambiance reminiscent of an Italian Trattoria is achieved with dark mahogany booths and deep, lush burgundy seating that invite diners to get cozy as they experience the art of Italian dining in Northern California. Terra cotta floors and marble play off the arched floor-to-ceiling windows looking out across the harbor.

Executive Chef Ben Balesteri leads the kitchen with an incredible culinary prowess and a familial approach. He brings the culinary program’s timehonored preparation techniques including housecured charcuteries and fresh pasta to life; interpreting Italian classics while staying true to traditional flavors. An impressive array of local and seasonal ingredients bring Californian flair to the table. “Just like the people in Italy, I’m guided by what’s available in the wild and in the garden,” Balesteri explains. “In Italy, they don’t manipulate food, but rather, bring out what’s best about it. I do this at Poggio, as well.”

Born in Monterey, the Swiss farming family on Ben’s mother’s side influenced his appreciation of seasonal vegetables, artisanal cheese, and seasonally butchered meats. The Sicilian fishermen on his father’s side taught him to love fishing and informed him on the best ways to prepare freshly caught fish and seafood to bring out their unique qualities.

Adding to the sultry atmosphere, a large portion of the menu is prepared over a wood fire rotisserie, quickly reaching 1,000 degrees. From flatbreads and pizzas to the Porterhouse steak, the rustic flavors bring joy to the palate.

An extensive wine list featuring Italian, Californian, and international varietals make pairing a delight, while the lively bar offers a classic Italian selection of Negronis and aperitifs, as well as Sausalito’s eclectic artists, bohemians, and intellectuals. If room allows, chocolate budinos and tiramisu beckon along with an espresso or digestif.

Possibly the best news is that one need not wait for dinner to experience all that Poggio has to offer. Breakfast and lunch offer an incredible opportunity to enjoy Italian classics and al fresco dining. A daily selection of cappuccinos, Italian paninis, and pastries are prepared to-go at the bar each morning. Those wishing to linger over a mimosa or two can enjoy selections including freshly baked Ciabatta toast and jams, organic steel cut oatmeal, or Tosti with full service.

Lunchtime favors the hundreds of daily visitors who reach Sausalito by ferry or bridge from San Francisco and beyond with zuppe, insalate, and pasta dishes as well as hearty main dishes, including branzino, split-roast chicken and meatloaf, paninis, and pizzas.

With many local accolades and two Bib Gourmand nods from Michelin Guide, Poggio continues to inspire locals and visitors to Sausalito alike. The seasonally inspired family-style Tuesday Night Suppers bring diners back regularly to celebrate the bounty of good food and company in this unique and special location.

Poggio is located at 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965, and open seven days a week: 6:30 am for prima colazione (breakfast) | 11:30 am for pranzo (lunch) | 5:30 pm for cena (dinner). For more information, visit or call 415-332-7771.

Words by Lauren Eastman. Images courtesy of Poggio


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