As recent transplants from the Philadelphia area, we are, of course, used to a range of Italian cuisines from peasant to fine dining (Osteria, for example). While we love the Alamo/Danville area where we now live, unless you travel to North Beach, the pickings are slim when it comes to authentic Italian fare. That is why we were pleasantly surprised to to find Incontro, a little dining spot hard against the busy Ramon Valley Blvd.
The building itself looks as though it might have served as a fast food base or even a custard stand in an earlier life, but don’t let that discourage you. Once inside you’re likely to be warmly greeted by one of the two owners, Gianni Bartoletti or Stefano Giovacchino. We were escorted to a little alcove area that faces the highway but the view is obscured by etched designs on the window panes … as a matter of fact, a nice little touch is the way that same design is casually stenciled on the paper table clothes (I didn’t say it was fine dining).
We started with a very nice and inexpensive Montepulciano at $19 a bottle. Next we were served some of the best bread I have ever eaten at a restaurant. I am told they bake it on premises. The bread was accompanied by a light, lovely and slighty citrus-y olive oil. So applying DeAngelo Dining Rule #1 … good bread leads to good meal … we expected the best.
I ordered one of the “special salads” infused with orange and citrus vinaigrette and Judy tried the Caesar. Both were excellent. For our entrees, Judy went with the pan seared breast of duck with Sardinian grape must reduction ($23.00). She loved it. I got the Orecchieti (little ears) pasta with red wine and herbs braised pork ragout ($15.50). It was outstanding! The pork was fall-apart tender and the sauce was flavorful, providing an excuse to ask for more bread.
It was a Tuesday night so the place wasn’t full but busy enough so you didn’t feel alone. We eavesdropped on the conversations of diners around us and got the impression these were regulars who thoroughly enjoyed visiting Incontro over and over again.
We hope to do the same since it is only 15 minutes from where we live … especially if, as Gianni hinted, they open for lunch in the near future.
2065 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, CA 94583