Had the privilege of visiting Sonoma, a quaint little town in the heart of the world's third largest wine country (Sonoma/Napa Valley) located in San Francisco. We stopped in Sonoma for a lunch break and then continued the journey to the other wineries. I was enthralled by the town's vintage charm -wooden white pillars and lamp posts adorned with Christmas heaths among pastel clapboard buildings.
The afternoon was cloudy with a burst of sunlight. Traffic was minimal. Women pushed strollers as they window-shopped. Old friends laughed over fresh coffee in the warm interiors of cafes.Tourists paused outside trinket stores to snap pictures (that's me).
Along the short strip of stores was Mary's Pizza Shack. You couldn't miss it. A statue of a fat, oversized elf with striped stockings and curly-tipped shoes greeted you at the front with a large pizza.
Once inside, I quickly learned that Mary's Pizza Shack is an Italian family-owned business. The restaurant received national recognition for its delicious pizzas. It serves Italian comfort food like soups, pizzas and pastas. This got me excited. You know how much I adore Italian food! ;)
The founder's grandson who looked no older than 12, greeted us and led us to our table.
Pots and pans hung from a rod at the back of the restaurant, contributing to the restaurant's cheerful decor
Random snapshot of my dad's hands while I waited for the food
I ordered the seafood risotto because I hadn't tasted risotto in almost a year. It arrived in a big white plate. Shrimps and clams were nestled in a bed of creamy rice, garnished with peas, herbs and a hint of lemon.
Best risotto I've ever tasted. The shrimps were juicy and fresh. And the rice, soaked in a creamy pool of sauce, was cooked to perfection. Everything about it was delicious.
My brother contemplated between a pizza and a meatball spaghetti. He ended up going with a pizza called "Mary's Combination." Since my parents were interested in having pizza as well, they all decided to split the large pizza.
When our pizza arrived, our jaws dropped. I thought we ordered a large, not a Ginormous. I later learned that the restaurant's definition of a large pizza was 16" and 10 slices. My parents had only been in America for a week, and were still incapable of increasing their appetite to more than two slices of pizza. I think I saw a flash of panic in my mom's eyes the moment the waitress lowered the pizza onto our table.
The pizza was a lot larger than it looks. But it was worth every penny. It was topped with salami, pepperoni, cotto salami, mushrooms and sausage. Toss in the best meats in the world and you'll have Mary's Combination. (No bacon on there though)
I was full from my risotto but I helped myself to a slice anyway, and then another. It was so good! I highly recommend the Mary's Combination. I'm not a huge fan of meat but I really liked it. If you're a vegetarian, don't worry. There's a Vegetarian Pizza on the menu too, specially for you guys.
We ended our lunch with cake. I don't know how the thought of dessert even crossed our minds because we were bloated from all the carbs. But my mom was craving cheesecake and the blueberry crumble cheesecake caught her eye.
Lemon cheesecake caressed with sweet blueberries and streusel, with fresh cream on the side.
It was pretty sweet. Too sweet for my mom's liking. She stopped after several bites and made the rest of us finish it. The sourness of the lemon was barely detectable beneath the overpowering sweetness of the cake.
I'm not trying to be cheesy, but at least we ended on a sweet note. ;)
Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.