Tomatina is exactly the kind of restaurant Santa Rosa needs right now. Not because there’s a celebrity chef or foie gras or a secret menu only hipsters know about, but because it’s just what it isgood, approachable Italian-American cuisine at reasonable prices.

Describing itself as “fresh Italian”, Tomatina’s menu takes inspiration from Italy but gives it a lighter California twist.

Tomatina Santa Rosa Italian Restaurant interior (courtesy photo)

Tomatina Santa Rosa Italian Restaurant interior (courtesy photo)

Part of a Northern California chain of restaurants around since the late 1990s, Tomatina has already worked out the menu kinks and staffing, focusing instead on a lengthy menu of modern pizzas, pasta, “piadine” (think pizza crust with a salad on top) and familiar entrees (chicken picatta, spaghetti and meatballs). The restaurant’s’ executive chef, Rogelio Jacinto is a Tra Vigne alum who creates monthly specials like pizza with roasted cauliflower, pancetta and arugula.

Taking over the former Sea Thai Bistro space in Montgomery Village (btw: Sea Thai moved over to Midway Dr.), the restaurant is light and nearly double the size, with an open kitchen, skylights and a mix of high bar tables and more typical dining tables.

White sangria at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin)

White sangria at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin)

Is Santa Rosa’s Tomatina perfect? No. I can make an argument that it’s not exactly local (although reps say everything is made onsite, not at a central kitchen), it can be noisy and there are plenty of kids in high chairs killing the romantic trattoria vibe. The food is tasty, but distinctly Americanized.

But is it a great place to meet up with a friend for lunch, grab a cocktail with your hubby or take the kids to dinner? Absolutely.

Wine Country is a dining destination with plenty of high-end restaurants at the luxe and of the spectrum and taquerias on the paper plate, taco-in-your face end.

Tomatina lands squarely in the restaurant desert between the two, which is exactly the kind of restaurant Santa Rosa needs right now.

Gorganzola fusili pastas from Tomatina Italian Restaurant Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

Fusili Gorgonzola pasta from Tomatina Italian Restaurant Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

What you’re here for:
Signature garlic rolls: Order more than you think you’ll need because everyone will fight over these garlicky, olive oil and Parmesan babies you can dip in their perfect marinara. Really it’s great marinara.

Fusili Gorgonzola ($14.50): An over-the-top dish with with Gorgonzola-covered pasta, fresh basil and pine nuts atop tomato-basil pasta sauce.

Calamari at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (heather irwin)

Calamari at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (heather irwin)

Steak Piadine ($13.95): Once you’ve had a piadine, you wonder why you haven’t had one before. A warm, crispy cross between flatbread and pizza crust is topped with a salad, making for a pull-apart or fold-up meal that’s light but filling. We love the marinated steak with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and ranch dressing. Simple, delightful.

Tiramisu at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

Tiramisu at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

Tiramisu ($6.95): Homemade. Enough said.

The full bar and kids menu keeps everyone happy, with a great selection of low or no-alcohol cocktails including white sangria or cranberry juice with raspberry syrup and soda.

Tomatina: 2323 Sonoma Ave. in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, tomatina.com. Open for lunch and dinner daily.