Felton’s Oak Tree Ristorante merrily applies local ingredients to its Italian masterpieces
An ancient oak stands not far from a redwood forest. Its namesake, Oak Tree Ristorante, was recently visited by Danny Glover, or so I am told. I just missed his visit by days, but found celebrity just the same, on the white plates at this lively Felton restaurant.
Under the arms of this tree, where La Bruschetta once existed, a colorful border of roses and camellias shields a large patio from Highway 9. Protruding from the front door is a redwood sculpture of a shapely woman meditating cross-legged in the lotus position. I pulled on the burl girl’s arm, splitting her in half as the door opened into the bright restaurant where more beautiful burl had been made into countertops. The bright-eyed staff, conversing in Italian, was enjoying morning espresso from demitasse cups.
Although dinner is served nightly, breakfast and lunch are only available Friday through Sunday. The morning meal includes family-friendly fruit pancakes ($7), granola with fruit, yogurt, and Italian pastry cream custard ($7), and a platter with two Italian sausages, eggs, and smoked mozzarella ($11). Italian omelets are served with toast, potatoes, and fruit.
Frittatas ($9) include Salmone Affumicato in which house-smoked salmon is mixed with garlic, zucchini and scallions. A vegetarian treat, Del Bosco, combines onions, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, mozzarella and luscious truffle oil.
I ordered the Guanciale Breakfast Panino ($11). The giant bun-shaped bread held a circular omelet, sliced tomatoes, and melted mozzarella. It was loaded with guanciale, a rustic, fatty, unsmoked bacon made from pork cheek or jowls. With the colorful fresh fruit and seasoned potatoes, I could finish only half of it.
Lunch also offers a kaleidoscope of Italian treats. On the counter surrounding the open kitchen sat trays of aromatic focaccia. Slices of this fluffy herb-topped bread made their way to our table along with ovals of sesame seed and oatmeal-crusted wheat bread, flavorful, herbed virgin olive oil, roasted garlic and minced green olives. The soft music of breakfast had morphed into upbeat Italian alt-rock, to which the energetic and light-hearted staff would occasionally sing.
We started with Gamberoni alla Griglia ($10) and two glasses of local red wine. Five grilled prawn were seasoned with a Sicilian salmoriglio sauce of lemon, oregano, and bits of garlic. They were served with a timbale-molded mango and tomato salsa and a bulbous hot red Calabrese chili pepper.
A plate of Insalata Roma ($10) held what seemed to be an entire head of velvety, unblemished butter lettuce drizzled with ambrosial truffle oil, bright slices of heirloom tomato, and topped with crunchy croutons and Pecorino Romano cheese.
A plate of Antipasto Italiano ($12) featured a selection of old world cheeses and salumi with green olives. Soft and salty blue-veined Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella and thin slices of mild provolone joined fat-striped prosciutto, mortadella (smooth, Italian bologna), and European-style salami – a mosaic of fat and seasoned meat.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese ($14)
featured toothsome, fresh housemade noodles in a tart tomato sauce loaded with slow-cooked natural Angus beef. Delizioso!
Oak Tree Ristorante, 5447 Highway 9, Felton, 335-5551. Beer and wine. Open Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit oaktreeristorante.com