Larry Mindel, Proprietor of Sausalito’s Poggio Trattoria, set out in 2003 to create a restaurant that reflected all of who he is. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2018, Poggio is the culmination of Mindel’s long and storied career in hospitality. With more than 30 Italian restaurants under his belt, Mindel crafted Poggio with a clear eye on the tenants of Italian hospitality and cooking, bringing in Amy Svendberg as Managing Partner and Ben Balesteri as Executive Chef to actualize a menu that is grounded in northern Italy but reflects classics of the broader Italian culinary cannon.
Photo by Hardy Wilson
The restaurant, which achieved Michelin Bib Gourmand status in 2019, approaches cooking like any restaurant in Italy: use the best ingredients and do as little as possible to them to give them room to shine. It sounds simple, but as anyone who has put dinner on the table will tell you, simple is hard. It is all the more magical, then, that dishes like the Tuscan-style gnudi with beef ragú are staples that Balesteri cannot entirely remove from the menu due to consistent demand.
Mindel’s hope when creating Poggio, that it “would be a place my friends and family feel comfortable in,” has come true. The seats are comfortable no matter where in the restaurant – the outdoor patio, main dining room, or bar — you choose to dine. The linen-draped tables evoke a classicism in dining that the fast-casual trend utterly disregards (to its detriment).
The staff will almost always remember returning guests as well as their favorite drink. It is friendly here. Inviting. Bespoke, yet familiar. You can almost imagine Cliff and Norm from Cheers, attired in Wilkes-Bashford and Ralph Lauren, sharing a laugh at the bar and drinking Negronis. They are saving a seat for you.
Poggio’s character, exuding neighborhood charm while maintaining the essence of Italian hospitality, is a gift to diners. Mindel’s gift. Throughout the year, there are numerous ways to experience the wonders of Balesteri’s Italian kitchen and celebrate Mindel, Balesteri, and Svendberg’s achievement, a long-running restaurant. All in keeping with the seasons, of course.
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.