When Monaciello first opened its doors, I attended a media preview night; I recently dug out my notes from the event, and I noticed these words that I had scribbled down as I was sampling the night’s offerings:
It’s not often that a root veggie is preceded by the words “life-changing.” But here’s the deal: I can still remember that carrot.
In the few weeks since its opening, I’ve been watching the growth of Monaciello. I drive by the former Blue Moon Pizza spot regularly, noticing the small space bathed in Tiffany-blue hues typically packed with socializing locals. And I proudly call myself one of its happy customers.
First, let’s talk about the name: I had to ask when I first visited, because having an unusual name myself, I prefer when people make an effort to learn how it’s pronounced and its meaning. This is “Monna-shello” — the name is a nod to a fairy from Naples folklore. Apparently there is a legend of The Monaciello, also known as the “Little Monk”:
A short, thick little man, he dresses in the long garments of a monk. Legend has it that he is a giving spirit, performing acts of kindness and charity to those in most dire need. Those who follow the Monaciello will be led to treasure without any repayment expected in return.
Led to treasure — like life-changing carrots, I’m thinking.
The restaurant bills itself as “The pizza and pasta place,” but it’s so much more than that. Its ingredients are predominantly sourced locally and almost entirely made in-house: sauces, pastas, pizza dough and sausages are from-scratch.
Also: BREAKFAST! (Yes, I’m yelling, because I’m SUPER excited about this.) Monaciello is open at 9 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and if you’re anything like I am, you long for new breakfast/brunch destinations. This is a hidden gem with delightful and completely inventive approaches to classics. Check out their menu (click “Breakfast” at the top) to see for yourself. I mean, their “OH”tmeal ($6 for a small bowl, $11 for a large) is made with crème brûlée, bananas, and pecans, people! And their Brie & Strawberry Stuffed French Toast ($10) is rolled in Frosted Flakes and topped with almonds. Other specialties include frittatas, benedicts and crepes. And they have traditional mimosas and some substituting the OJ for spectacular special flavors, like cinnamon pear and rosemary grapefruit. Drooling yet? It’s just not fair.
Lunch and dinner include oddities like hamburgers seasoned with gunpowder (not literal gunpowder, but the “Bad Idea Burger,” $15, features a seasoning made with 13 types of peppers that Chef Jacob produces in house) and the most brilliant risotto ($10) I’ve ever tasted that is complemented by subtle but awesome notes of artichoke, almond and caramel. And my favorite part of the menu: small plates. This is the perfect destination for bringing some friends, ordering four or five selections to sample, which can inform your future visits as you pick and choose your favorites.
By the way, desserts aren’t on the online menu, but rest assured they’re an option. My most recent visit concluded with a creamy Bavarian chocolate mousse topped with roasted pecans and a marshmallow topping that was toasted by a blow torch. It’s what a camping trip spent by the fire making s’mores would taste like if you could put it in a mason jar. Plus you’re clean and don’t have to worry about bears, so even better.
The brains behind the inventive menu is Chef Jacob, whom you may remember locally from Dolce, The Grill, Tuscan Tomato and/or Feast (before it became Fin & Filet). He grew up in the Bay Area, eventually developed a passion for mixed martial arts and ultimately ended up receiving his education at The California Culinary Academy (an AOS in Culinary Arts specializing in European Cuisine). Is it cheesy to call him a cooking ninja? Probably, but I don’t care. That’s what he is, and the tricks he plays with food are both dazzling and delicious.
Seriously, Reno Moms: This is such a beautiful spot for date night, for brunch with girlfriends or for a work lunch where you’ll impress your dining partner. I can’t say enough about Monaciello. Try it if you like food (which is what I think the restaurant’s slogan should be henceforth).
Oh, and regarding the life-changing carrot: It accompanied the salmon on the “Small Plates” menu, which is described as “Seared Salmon, Marinated Salmon Roe, Blackened Carrots & Potatoes, Basil Pea Puree with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette” ($14).
If you’re reading this, Monaciello management: You’re giving short shrift to those beautiful, miraculous, life-changing carrots.
Monaciello, 190 California Ave., (775) 507-7540
Mon, Wed, Thurs 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fri – Sat 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Closed on Christmas
New Year’s Eve by reservation only