Franco's -- Pine Grove, CA CA
Sierra Lodestar 08/25/10

Franco’s: Far From the Madding Crowd

By Antoinette May Herndon

This summer was so long in coming. Didn’t you fear that winter would never end? I did.

It was so cold! And all that rain. How dare anyone complain now about a little hot weather! Sadly, those ingrates won’t have much longer to grump either. After such a tardy arrival, summer has flown far too fast.

Many psychics and astrologers predicted dire things for summer 2010. They said it was going to be awful.

I hope the Goddess doesn’t drop a hobnailed boot on the Sierra foothills between now and the publication of this column, because I’m going to put my own foot out. For us Mother Lodians summer hasn’t been awful at all. Awful nice is more like it.

Of course the sunny skies tempered by light, balmy breezes were conducive to capital A activity. Hasn’t this summer seemed particularly hectic? So many meetings, parties, trips, readings, concerts, signings, workshops, benefits, lectures to attend. Not that they all haven’t been perfectly delightful, mind you. They have. Every one of them.

Yet finally there comes an evening when you just have to kick back and take a breather. Remember the King’s X time-out when you were a kid? You held up two crossed fingers and begged for “King’s X”, a truce signal dating back to Robin Hood. Play stopped for a short interval allowing you to tie a shoelace or catch a breath before resuming the important business of Run, Sheep, Run or Hide and Go Seek.

Charles and I enjoyed a King’s X not long ago. So much had been happening and there were even more events ahead to plan for, do, or attend. After careening through a busy week, culminating in a particularly frantic day,

we were confronted by the prospect of a very early dinner prefacing a lecture.

Hmmmmm, it wasn’t that it wouldn’t be pleasant: Fun people, an interesting sounding talk by a potentially lively speaker? That sounds like the recipe for a stimulating night. Right?

Maybe we were just tired of being stimulated. What we really wanted was a quiet evening, just us, a time to talk or not talk, a time to relax. We could have just gone home following the afternoon’s event, but I didn’t want to do that. What I really wanted was to get away from it all.

Okay, the purpose for this long shaggy Antoinette story is a revelation. Do I ever have a get away from it all place for you! Unless you happen to live in the pretty village of Pioneer, Franco’s Italian Restaurant is a long way from everything, the perfect place for a quiet evening.

We chanced to note their ad and thought it sounded tailor made for us. It was too. The hour long ride on Highway 88 wound through lush forest. Everything so serene and tranquil. No cars, one doe, two fawns. Is that a perfect car ride or what?

Franco’s, set back from the road, looks like a vacation retreat. The dining room’s many windows face into the woods. Green, green everywhere.

Back long ago before uptight became a social convention, in those lazy, hazy pre-PC days, the kind of house wine served at Franco’s was called Dago red. I liked it then, I like it now. The price is right too. Four bucks a glass is half what many restaurants charge for their house wine.

It was pleasant to sip a generous glass of hearty burgundy and watch the sun beginning to slip into the forest.

A house salad was included with our entrees, fresh and

crisp. I would have liked some onion in the mix but considered a whole jalapeno pepper a special treat.

Charles ordered a medium sized vegetarian pizza but could easily have done with a small. (But then we wouldn’t have had those yummy leftovers.) ($15.99) It was filled with onion, garlic, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. He was well pleased.

My choice, the rib-eye steak ($16.99), gave my jaws quite a workout. Chew----yyy. But it was tasty, cooked to order, and plentiful. Actually the steak was huge. (Chloe got a great doggy dividend the next morning.)

The steak came with a twice done potato—a rare treat—and absolutely delicious zucchini sautéed with garlic and olive oil. The zucchini was the best vegetable side dish I’ve had all year. Truly.

Charles wasn’t ready to give up and ordered an outrageous chocolate fudge sundae ($4.50). I passed on that but asked our very pleasant and attentive waitress, Roxanne Carranca Gonzales, for a second glass of wine of that hearty, full- bodied burgundy.

It was still twilight when we left. Summer days are so wondrously long. Make the most of them by taking a King’s X of your own.

VITALS: Franco’s Italian Restaurant. 2669 Highway 88, Pioneer. Phone: 295-1700. Open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 pm.. Closed Tuesdays. Credit cards accepted.


Franco’s interior is has a mountain cabin feel to it.

Waitress Roxanne Carranca Gonzales is a friendly and efficient plus for Franco’s.

Pizza is a special treat at Franco’s in Pioneer.