Walking into La Famiglia’s quaint dining room on the corner of South Virginia Street feels like stepping into a café in Italy. The dim lighting, white tablecloths and decorative wine bottles transport diners to another continent where the homemade pastas and other old-world classics delight.
Unlike many old-school Italian eateries, however, La Famiglia offers these delicious delicacies in a more modern space, set conveniently across the street from the Pioneer Center, making it an easy precursor to any show and an appropriate preamble to a night on the town.
The dining room features close tables and dressed-up servers regaling guests with daily specials and a robust selection of both Californian and European wines. Listen closely to the specials list as these items quite often steal attention away from the rest of the menu.
If you’re sticking to the book, however, start with wine. There are other drinking options, but fans of vino should try some of the less-popular varietals offered at La Famiglia. Choose a bottle to split or order by the glass. You’ll notice everything from the local Ferrari-Carano to Chianti, Barolo, Barbera, Toscano and other Italian reds. If you choose not to dip into the European wine list, consider The Spur, a red blend from Murrieta’s Well in Livermore.
Once the wine is selected, which may just be the most difficult decision of the evening, move on to the dinner menu. Fresh ingredients punctuate every dish that, though made in Reno, is also reminiscent of the traditional flavors of Italy.
If you’re looking to share a starter, the fresh burrata made with tomato and pesto on a crispy crostini is an appropriate choice. Or opt for spicy pan roasted brussels sprouts finished with a spicy honey glaze for just the right amount of kick (and a less obvious start to an Italian dinner). Lastly, if you’re feeling adventurous—or perhaps you simply know you’re a fan of escargot—the lobster escargot here offers a twist, rich in black truffle butter and flavored with a gorgonzola cheese.
For me, it’s hard to skip a Caesar salad and the one here is done well with home-made dressing and croutons, the zest of lemon and anchovies.
For entrees, it’s hard to ignore the pasta. Keep it light with the capellini pomodoro, a skinny spaghetti noodle tossed in olive oil with garlic and basil, evoking all of the flavors you’d expect from a simple Italian dish. Fresh mozzarella finishes the meal and an offering of parmesan at serving provides a second chance to add more.
Fans of clams will enjoy the linguine vongole, a thicker noodle tossed in white wine and garlic featuring robust manilla clams.
To truly embrace the culture, finish your meal by drinking your dessert. The menu includes coffee, espresso and cappuccino, a classic end to an Italian dinner.