Clements, Calif. isn’t the first place you think of when discussing fine dining in Northern California. But new Italian restaurant, La Strada 88, is quickly creating a major buzz in this small town with an authentic menu, outstanding chefs and a little savvy social media marketing.
“I was in the service industry years ago and then became involved in land acquisition with my husband,” explains Jan Johnson, who opened the restaurant five months ago. “I have always had my eye on this building, and even as a patron I loved it. Out of the old building came this new venture, La Strada 88, an authentic Italian restaurant that already enjoys a large following and has sparked a great deal of community interest. “We took a poll and several names were picked by the community,” says Johnson. “La Strada, (meaning ‘the street’) on Highway 88 was the most popular.
So, we decided on Ristorante La Strada 88.”
The restaurant boasts a unique ambiance with a scenic enclosed patio dining area including heaters and a wood-burning fireplace. They also have a huge banquet room for weddings and special parties. “We plan to have entertainment in the future as well as winemaker’s dinners,” says Johnson. “We like to support the local farmers and winemakers, and our wine list is quickly growing with many selections from various local winemakers.”
The chef and menu spearheaded the path to La Strada 88’s hot start. Their Executive Chef, Atillio Sienna, formerly worked at a small restaurant in the area that served the best Italian food the Johnsons had ever experienced. “I always joked with [Chef Sienna] that if I ever buy my own place I was coming to get him to be part of our team,” Johnson recalls. “When we found out we bought the building I called [Chef Sienna] immediately and he was ready to go, and it has been a journey ever since.”
Although the pasta is hand-rolled and the housemade raviolis are hand-filled, the Johnsons recognize the need for variety. “Due to demographics of the area we have to offer more than just pasta,” says Johnson. “Our menu steak, lobster, prime rib and other specialty dishes only served on the weekends, like osso buco.” “We have a large selection of seafood including cioppino, halibut, salmon and sole,” Johnson continues. “All of our seafood selections reflect Chef Sienna’s personal touch and style differently than probably anywhere you have had the item before.” La Strada 88 is even drawing attention from foodies in the Bay Area, with guests coming as far as San Jose just for the dining experience. With a second native Italian chef, Lucia Rogers, working closely with Sienna the combination is truly special.
A popular specialty item is the fried green tomato caprice salad, paired with other traditional options like halibut and prime rib. Lamb chops, swordfish and eggplant parmesan are also popular dishes. The journey you will embark upon while navigating the La Strada 88 menu should include a mandatory stop in the dessert section. All desserts are handmade including the tiramisu, crème brulee and homemade biscotti. “I was never a tiramisu fan until I had Chef Sienna’s tiramisu, and it was love at first bite,” says Johnson.
Another unique dessert option is the Nutella calzone made in the wood-fired pizza oven. They also offer ‘semi-fredo,’ Chef Sienna’s own creation of a mixture of chocolate chips and the housemade biscotti (lady fingers and toasted almonds and walnuts), layered with housemade vanilla ice cream and finished with an Italian version of Nutella. By posting daily specials and limited menu items to their “in the know” Facebook fans, La Strada 88 has experienced a popularity surge ever since they opened their doors. Despite using the newest technological trends to gain visibility, the fundamentals for success at La Strada 88 still rely on the unique, personal menu. “It is an authentic experience that you cannot receive at commercial chain restaurants,” says Johnson. “We’re family-owned with authentic Italian chefs and a menu that you have to taste for yourself to believe that food can be this good.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
La Strada 88
18938 E. California 88, Clements