Press & Industry Reviews

The Wine History Project’s collection of Cafe Roma’s history and how it has impacted California cuisine. Click to read the full article.

September 27, 2019
Wine History Project

Voted New Times Readers Poll: Best Italian Food

New Times

Voted New Times Readers Poll: Best Restaurant, Most Romantic, Best Italian, and Best Wine List, for San Luis Obispo County Since 1986.

New Times

1999 KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic Honoree
presented to Maria Rosa Rizzo 1998 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence
presented to Cafe’ Roma Award of Commendation

KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic Honoree

ZAGAT Surveys, recognizable by their burgundy covers, have become best-sellers, with over 100,000 participants rating and reviewing restaurants in more than 40 major U.S. and foreign cities.

In contrast to other guides, the ZAGAT Surveys separately rate the distinct qualities of a restaurant (food, decor, and service) or of a hotel (rooms, service, dining, and public facilities) while providing an estimate of average cost. Rather than being judged on one person’s taste and one or two visits, each restaurant or hotel is judged on the basis of hundreds or even thousands of experiences: the ratings reflect an average of all votes tallied for a given restaurant or hotel, while quotations selected from an extensive pool of Surveyor comments make up the substance of the reviews. ZAGAT Surveys include a 0 to 30 (“poor” to “perfect”) numerical rating system, extensive indexing and lists of top-rated establishments in various categories.

Thus, the Surveys represent the best imaginable source of travel and dining information – the “organized word-of-mouth” of sophisticated consumers. No other guidebooks boast the vast pool of knowledgeable consumer-opinion resources from which ZAGAT draws its reviews and ratings.

Partisans call this “family-owned” SLO favorite a “consistent” provider of “delicious” Italian fare in a “charming spot that’s worth a detour” (it’s “hard to find but worth it”); it’s “unpretentious” with “friendly” service to boot, placing it among the “best places to eat after a long day of wine-tasting.” (text from


Being less tolerant of excess a table, we decided to eat somewhere else. Out by the Amtrak station we lingered over lunch on the patio at CAFE ROMA, a local favorite that had garnered many recommendations. Thirteen years ago, Giuseppe Rizzo–once an oboe player in Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony orchestra–opened Cafe Roma with his wife, Maria Rosa, and their sons. Giuseppe died three years ago, but Maria Rosa and the boys are still going strong.

Our feast commenced with Carpaccio and sublime tortelli ai funghi di Cambria–triangles of pasta stuffed with chanterelles picked in the hills above Cambria–and moved on to a colorful branzino alla romana–sea bass resting on sauces of pureed red and yellow peppers. These pleasures were accompanied by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made from Santa Barbara County grapes for Cafe Roma by Bruno D’Alfonso, wine maker at Sanford Winery serious wines at not so serious prices. We somehow had room for tartufo all’Amaretto, a chocolate truffle with Amaretto ice cream. All this plus a tasting of the Rizzo’s own olive oils, a chat with the mushroom man (just off the mountain with a fresh load), good coffee, and a smidgen of Port, made for the sort of midday repast that calls for a long stroll.

October 1993