Café Roma and The Rail Road District

Memorial railroad district san luis obispo, ca

By Donna Polizzi

San Luis Obispo has no shortage of great restaurants.  In the Historical Rail Road District in San Luis Obispo, near the train station, is an incredible Italian eatery named Café Roma. Located less than two minutes from the downtown section of the city, Café Roma is a local favorite that delights the senses.

For thirty-five years, visitors and locals have appreciated Maria Rosa’s original family recipes and specialties served up in a setting that simply exudes European charm. Cultural ambiance permeates each dish, obviously prepared to the standards of the old world family recipes wonderfully prepared then paired with Italian varietals.

Co-owner, Marco Rizzo’s passion for culinary excellence was well stated when he shared, “Every single day we strive to keep up the traditions of my father, Joseph Rizzo and my Mother Maria Rosa.  Our family specializes in traditional regional Italian dishes.”

I tasted and it was delicious.   It began with a crunchy crusted Bolle bread with basil-laced olive oil for dipping.  The bread was so good I actually asked if they made it in-house.  Our server shared that their bread is baked and delivered daily from Hush Harbor in Atascadero. This delight was followed by a divine Bietole “Beet” Salad featuring fresh avocado, and gorgonzola crumbles over butter lettuce. Wow, what a wonderful blend of flavors.  If you’re a pasta fan, try the Tagliatelle “Bolognese.”  The savory meat sauce on the gluten-free pasta was beyond good. This was my first gluten free pasta and it tasted as good any other perfect pasta. What a splendid celebration of culinary pleasures.

The Linguine Vongole, with littleneck clams, and pancetta garlic white wine looked as good as it tasted. The food can’t be beaten. Reasonable prices and the portions were generous.

The menu offers Maria Rosa’s family Piedmontese recipes mixed in with Lombard, Tuscan and Roman specialties. The charm, and courteousness of old world family traditions truly make dining at Café Roma a wonderful experience.

On weekends, you can experience a classic rendition of Osso Bucco a la Milanese.  If you haven’t had it before, expect a huge veal shank, braised to mouthwatering perfection, then baked to tender flakiness before being served over a bed of saffron risotto.

Are you hungry yet?  Go eat. Unwind and let your biggest decision be what wine to pair with your meal from Café Roma’s extensive selection of wine.

What can I say? Few dining experiences are as charming as what is offered at Café Roma as they serve up pallet teasing delicacies. Each is presented in a tasteful, casual, yet dignified Tuscan atmosphere. Many dining experiences on the Central Coast seems to outperform the previous one…  but in this case, Café Roma will be a tough act to follow.  It has made the Keys 2 the Coast “local’s choice” list of the best places to wine dine explore and more.

After lunch, take the time to enjoy the historical context of the Café’s location.  Right out front is the 1894 Historic Railroad District sign.  It would be impossible not to appreciate the collision of this 18th and 21st-century historical intersection, known as Railroad Square, right outside of the restaurant. This is a really unique area and one of the many thought-provoking cultural offerings that truly make this part of San Luis Obispo such a unique treasure on the California Central Coast. The northern and southern California railroad tracks were joined at this location which gave San Luis Obispo its own “golden spike” moment in history.

One of the most interesting attractions in the Historical Rail Road District are the featured artworks that capture both the sacrifice of human beings, as well as the ingenuity that made America an industrial powerhouse.  A stately and stunning statue honors the Chinese ironworker pioneers who were brought over from China by Ah Louis to do this very difficult and cutting-edge railroad work.

This sculpture signifies the hard work and engineering feat of the pioneers of the American railroad era. This display of talent and history are showcased as part of an elaborate transportation system. The amazing bridge is a masterpiece that allows you to enjoy the fantastic view and architecture of the entire area that is a testimony to the industriousness of a bygone era.