Dining in Morgan Hill
By Jessica Fromm
Metro Silicon Valley - August 20, 2008

MORGAN HILL locals have an inside joke about being in "the land of a thousand pizza parlors," but Maurizio Cutrignelli has been so successful with Maurizio's, a downtown institution, that he is ambitiously planning on opening a gourmet pizza venture of his own.

Named Mangia La Pizza, the new wood-fired oven pizzeria will be located a block away from Maurizio's at the Granary on Depot Street. He hopes to have it open in December. With the fine eats offered at his main restaurant, Maurizio's Authentic Italian Cuisine, I'm looking forward to this new Italian offering. But while I'm waiting, Maurizio's still offers solid Italian fare with a very personal touch.

Maurizio's is Maurizio. Italian through and through, he can be seen buzzing around town on his Vespa Beverly with cases of ravioli between his knees. With his thick accent and goatee, Maurizio is passionate about making his customers feel at home. It's not unusual to see him walking around the cozy 60-seat restaurant asking eaters how their meals are, talking and laughing.

"I'm hooked on it, kind of like I'm addicted to it," says Maurizio about being able to keep personal interaction with his Morgan Hill customers. "If somebody's grumpy, I'm no be grumpy--the quality of the people is what I see most important, they're friendly, they're, like, no fake. There are very wealthy people, they are just like simple, though."

As for the antipasti at Maurizio's, the Melanzane Rollatini ($7.50) is a solid choice. It features double rolls of thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with an obscenely sinful combination of cream, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and baked in a pool of puréed tomato sauce. Though it sounded overly heavy on paper, the fresh basil, crispy nature of the eggplant and delicate tomato sauce kept it from becoming too rich. A perfect way to start off a meal.

The Insalata di Bietole ($5) consisted of a simple combination of four large slices of red wine vinegar beets topped with large plops of goat cheese. Mixed greens are piled on top and doused in olive oil and garlic. The big flavor of the beets was balanced well by the muted tang of the goat cheese. It was a refreshingly straightforward salad; with the strongness of the beets, anything more complicated would have made it overwhelming.

The attentive waiter recommended I try the Vitello Marsala ($19) for the main course, and it didn't disappoint. Buttery smooth thinly pounded veal was sautéed with fresh mushrooms and topped with a sun-dried Marsala cream sauce that was to die for. The herb-infused roasted squash and russet potatoes that accompanied the dish were surprisingly excellent on their own, as opposed to being little-seasoned understudies of the main course.

Most of the desserts at Maurizio's are imported frozen from Italy and are pleasant, even if they obviously do taste pre-made. The Chocolate Tartufo ($6) a cream-centered ball of chocolate gelato rolled in cocoa and hazelnuts and topped with chocolate syrup and a sprinkling of ground coffee, goes well with a cup of cappuccino, which is served in monster-sized cups--always nice.

Maurizio and his longtime friend Andy Kwitowski, owner of Ruby Sky nightclub in San Francisco, have also recently purchased the location of the Flying Dragon Chinese restaurant in downtown. They plan to open up an as yet unnamed "Asian fusion" eatery by next fall.

Copyright 2008 Metro Newspapers

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