Dining Out: Formoli’s Bistro

Inconspicuously tucked in a strip of tan buildings in midtown, Formoli’s is a true hidden gem. Formoli’s is a relatively new addition to the Sacramento scene and already a local favorite.  Opened in April 2008 by Aimal Formoli and his wife, Suzanne Ricci the restaurant this place is clearly a labor of love.

Once I found it, parked in the back, and walked in the front door I knew I should prepare to adore this place. The cozy quarters and wine red walls offer a neighborhood feel.

Perhaps it is the rather large collections of paintings hanging on the walls, similar to the way old trees make a neighborhood feel mature, that makes Formoli’s appear to be a veteran of the Sacramento area. They are a perfect fit.  

A unique feature is the entirely open kitchen that allows guests to watch their food being prepared. Once seated, you are served cucumber water, which is particularly refreshing, and left to ogle the plate of the table across from you.

I made my lunch visit with family a week ago after having heard nothing but positives from those who had dinned there previously. The table across from us was raving about the cous cous salad ($10), which contains a seven-grain cous cous on a bed of mixed greens, served with sautéed chicken and a honey yogurt dressing.  

While tempted, I believe I made the right choice with the Crusted Seared Scallops ($13). Three huge, succulent sea scallops crusted with green lentils and served over a carrot puree with a watercress and fennel salad. The crust is sublime and the quality of the scallops more than makes up for the quantity. This is technically a small-plates dish and I could have eaten three of them.

I also had the fig salad ($7); another delicious choice featuring red wine poached figs, baby arugula, goat cheese and candied walnuts served with a pancetta vinaigrette. The figs were simply scrumptious and I’m always a fan of goat cheese and walnuts, but the three together were a wonderfully sweet combination, complimented and balanced by the arugula.  
Our table also shared a small plate of the Stuffed Dates ($12), which were an unexpected delight. The sweet yielding figs were stuffed with tangy and flavorful goat cheese topped with savory pancetta. I loved the sweet and savory combination that could easily double as desert.  

I also sampled the fig crostini’s ($6). A crostini, or toasted cracker, holds a fig marmalade and goat cheese. Yet another delightful appetizer.

My least favorite item would have to be the Crab Sliders ($10), which I thought were a little better than average. The crab itself is acceptable and it’s sandwiched between two quite tasty rolls — but be careful, it gets drippy. The best part of this dish is that it’s served with Formoli’s delicious crispy-creamy yam frities ($6 as a side).

I’ve heard different sorts of rumblings about their Whiskey Burger ($10), a pepper-encrusted burger with a whiskey demi glace, cheddar cheese, habanero aioli and mixed greens on a ciabatta bun. While most patrons I’ve talked to loved the burger, a few said it didn’t suit their preferences. To me, all this means is that I get to go back to Formoli’s immediately to decide for myself.  

Formoli’s Bistro
3260 J St.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.  
Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Closed Sun/Mon  

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