Dining News: Sac Beer Week Edition
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Dining News: Aioli Menu is 'A Proven Winner'


In this week's review, Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson takes on the venerable Aioli, located at 18th & L.

There’s more to it than food, however. Aïoli has mastered the art of the dining experience in a very special way, complete with charm, polish and eccentricities. Brimming with all that is old-school and nothing that is newfangled or trendy, this Spanish tapas restaurant marries food, wine, service, setting and all kinds of intangibles into something that only gets better with each visit.

You don’t necessarily judge Aïoli by your first time here because, like a good relationship or a fine pair of shoes, there is a break-in period. In fact, my first visit years ago was a disappointment, due in part to my own clunky navigation of the imposing menu. I took a stab at it, ordered haphazardly and wound up with too many cold dishes for my liking and too many flavors that seemed repetitive rather than complimentary.

The way to embrace Aïoli is to go and return and eventually slot in as a regular, as if coming back to a second home where all your needs are anticipated. You’ll soon become friends with the entire staff. You’ll get hugs from the owner. You’ll sit at your favorite table. You’ll go through the menu backward and forward, trying new things and returning to old favorites.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

I, too, have had a complicated relationship with Aioli. To me, it's kind of the Napoleon Dynamite of Sacramento restaurants. You may not like it the first time you eat there, but eventually, it wins you over.

Over the last 10 years, I've eaten there a half dozen times. The first four times, I really didn't get why friends and colleagues heaped praise on the place. The last two times were this year, and I ate there with a regular. We left the menu and wine selection both times in the hands of the waiter, and I was blown away both times.

Most recently, I had one of their pastas (among many other dishes), and it was expertly cooked. The sauces were flavorful and complex. The pasta was perfectly al dente. We were practically licking the plate.

If you would have asked me three months ago, I wouldn't have recommended Aioli. But with my most recent experiences, if you're the kind of person who can trust the waiter with what you're going to eat or you know somebody who is a regular there, you'll have a great time.

Photo via http://aiolibodega.com/.

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