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Carboni’s Ristorante



Rich risottos and creamy pastas are tailor made to take the chill off winter. At this lovely restaurant, located inside the boutiquey Hotel Winters, you can eat your fill of carbs, cream and cheese, prepared deliciously by 34-year-old chef Dan Nguyen. He has a diverse culinary background, with experience cooking French, contemporary American, Irish and Japanese cuisine and stints at two highly regarded San Francisco eateries—Boulevard and EPIC Steak—under his belt. Those experiences show in the food at Carboni’s, where Nguyen creates classic Italian flavors featuring contemporary techniques and upscale presentations. The pastas here are all house-made. On the menu since day one, tagliatelle alla Bolognese is a tangle of noodles sauced with a rich, long-simmered, winescented pork-and-beef ragu. Another hearty pasta, rigatoni al forno, features large, barrel-shaped tubes of pasta in garlic cream sauce with fennel sausage (made, of course, in-house). A recent addition to the menu, pasta rotolo di melanzane, is a cross between lasagna, cannelloni and eggplant Parmesan. A sheet of pasta is spread with roasted eggplant puree, rolled up like a cinnamon roll, topped with cheese, baked and served with tomato sauce. “It’s one of our more rustic, homey dishes,” Nguyen says. “When you eat it, you feel warm inside.” Nguyen elevates risotto with his artistic take on a winter forest scene. A pan-seared confited duck leg is perched in a bowl of risotto tinted bright green from the addition of broccoli pesto, with confited mushrooms scattered around. The green risotto resembles moss and grass, Nguyen explains, and the golden duck leg a tree stump in the woods. Lightly dressed bitter winter greens accompany roasted spot prawns tossed with butter, garlic and chilies. Hearty meat dishes include a Wagyu bavette steak with red wine jus, and a pan-seared pork chop served with butternut squash roasted in pork fat and a flourish of pumpkin seed granola. Carboni’s is a relatively new addition to Winters’ small but growing culinary scene. It opened in January 2020, just in time for the pandemic, and had to close for a while. But it’s now finding its footing in this small town, and it provides Sacramentans with another close-in alternative to driving to San Francisco for upscale, chef-driven food. 316 Railroad Ave., Winters; (530) 505-9125;

Shakshouka from Joon Market

Joon Market ///////////////// When Joon Market in East Sac opened during the height of the pandemic, it made quite an impression on Sacramento: Readers of this magazine recently voted it best new restaurant and named owner Seth Helmly best up-and-coming chef. Helmly and his business partner (and fiancée), Saba Rahimian, are a new breed of young restaurateur, introducing local diners to things like pét-nat wines and breads made from heirloom grains. Unfortunately, Joon fell victim to the pandemic; in January, after little more than a year in business, the owners announced plans to close the restaurant after final service on Feb. 11. But that still gives you a few weeks to see what all the fuss was about. Originally from Texas, Helmly combines his love for live-fire cooking with an interest in cuisines from around the world. For a deceptively simple vegetarian dish, he roasts sweet potatoes in their jackets, then cuts them into wedges and cooks them on a wood grill until they’re charred and crisp, with a tobacco-y whiff of smoke. Helmly serves the wedges with an earthy salsa macha of nuts, seeds and toasted chilies (think dried chili pesto), and garnishes them with queso fresco, pickled red onions and cilantro. Another vegetable dish is a colorful play on tater tots, made with red beets and Nantes carrots in place of the traditional spuds. Fried to order, these tots come with whipped chevre, chives and chilies. Both dishes are meant to be shared. Shakshuka—a tomato stew with Northern African, Israeli and Middle Eastern roots—is a popular breakfast offering in American restaurants, thanks to the poached egg traditionally nestled on top. Helmly makes a dinner version, featuring pork-and-lamb meatballs in a charred tomato sauce seasoned with cumin and coriander and topped with feta and an herby salad of mint, parsley and cilantro. Served in a cast-iron pan, it too gets the addition of an egg, cooked in the stew right before serving. But food doesn’t have to be piping hot to be winter fare, says Helmly. “I like spicy things if it’s cold outside,” he notes. “It warms me, inside and out.” For a fusion-y take on Thai papaya salad, he tosses strands of steamed spaghetti squash with watermelon radish, shaved carrots, toasted cashews and a sprightly Vietnamese nuoc cham dressing. “It’s super bright and spicy and wakes up your palate,” he explains. 5401 H St.; (916) 389-0025; SACMAG.COM February 2022


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