Bear Bites: Trellis Restaurant

4 mins read

This quaint Italian restaurant on El Camino Real is a hidden gem you might pass every day but likely didn’t know about. With its lovely rooftop dining, great service, extensive menu, amicable staff, and arguably the best and most reasonably priced Italian food in downtown Menlo Park, Trellis Restaurant is an absolute must-try. 

Originally from Tuscany, Italy, Kurt Ugur has owned and operated Trellis during its twenty-three years. He was introduced to the food industry by his family, as his brother and father both owned local restaurants when he was young. Ugur eventually took on the same familial responsibility by opening Trellis in 2001 to bring Italian cuisine with a California flair to Menlo Park. 

Coming from an Italian family, I have tried every Italian restaurant downtown, whether it be Roma, Carpaccio, Che Fico, or Amici’s. Though they each have unique and admirable qualities, my family’s loyalty still lies with Trellis as the best option overall. I have tasted various items on the menu and selected my favorites.

Though bread and olive oil is not considered an appetizer on the menu, it felt necessary to include. Over the years, I have learned that you can tell a lot about an Italian restaurant simply by their bread and olive oil, and this one is a winner. Their warm rosemary bread paired with an olive oil and balsamic concoction will have you ordering at least two more baskets for the table or going just for their bread—something I have done unapologetically on more occasions than one.

To start, we ordered the Sautéed Prawns with garlic, white wine-lemon sauce & herbs. If you are somewhat particular about how your shrimp is cooked, like me, you will be happy to know that Trellis perfectly cooks their Gulf prawns in every meal featured on their menu, and specifically this starter. The lemon sauce is paired with just the right amount of garlic to give the prawns and spinach a sour and salty flavor combination that does not miss. If you’re a seafood fan, I highly recommend this appetizer to kickstart your meal. 

The Pesto Gnocchi with pine nuts—and optional sundried tomatoes—is a flawless item on the menu. Although traditionally served with tomato sauce, I substituted pesto for a more diverse sauce selection. Trellis’ savory pesto sauce with the pleasant crunch of the pinenuts elevates the warm potato dumplings to a truly delectable plate that is not too rich to finish. As one of the more unique pasta types, gnocchi must be done correctly to properly enjoy and Trellis achieves this. If you have been disappointed by gnocchi at other Italian restaurants in the past, do not expect the same here.

As promised, one of my favorites on the menu is the Chicken Risotto with garlic, spinach, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes. No matter how many times I have ordered the risotto, it hits the spot every time. If you—like me—don’t like mushrooms, you can easily order without them. If you are like me and you also don’t like tomatoes, I strongly encourage you to order this dish with them to preserve the additional flavor the sundried tomatoes add when cooked into the risotto. The creamy garlic rice with chicken, spinach, and parmesan on top can only be described as an utterly palatable union of ingredients. Trellis also offers a shrimp risotto which is just as delicious. Whatever combination of substitutions you choose, I guarantee that you and your tastebuds will get your money’s worth. 

As the signature Italian meal that it is, I had to feature the Spaghetti with meatballs and marinara sauce. Though not my personal favorite plate to order only because there are so many other exquisite meals available on the menu, you can’t go wrong with this dish if you enjoy the classic. The spaghetti and meatballs are cooked perfectly with just the right amount of marinara sauce so as to not overpower the simple, yet appetizing meal. If you are looking for an authentic Italian dish that is less adventurous than gnocchi or risotto, look no further. 

Chicken Piccata

My other favorite dish is the Chicken Picatta served in lemon-caper sauce with vegetables and mashed potatoes. While it may appear as your basic plate of protein, carbs, and greens, the savor of this dish is the best of all the meals highlighted in this review. The bed of tangy lemon sauce, similar to the one in the Gulf prawn appetizer, and capers seasoning the chicken raise the entire plate to mouth-watering status. Complimented with the sweetness of the carrots and cauliflower, and the salty creaminess of the potato puree, the fusion of flavors within this plate is heavenly. I would go as far as to say it would be a crucial mistake to not indulge in this dish upon visiting Trellis. 

Although I will not be formally featuring this next item, it would be an injustice not to make an honorable mention of Trellis’ Chicken Ceasar Salad. Do not be fooled by the simplicity implied by this meal; I have yet to taste a better chicken Caesar salad in my young lifetime. With just a few simple ingredients—lettuce, chicken, cucumbers, and croutons—how can a salad be so praised? The answer: Ugur’s immaculate Caesar dressing. With it, the slight char of the grilled chicken, the crunch of the lettuce and croutons, and the crispness of the watery cucumbers are brought together to create excellence.  

Chocolate Mousse

To finish off your meal and end the night: the Chocolate Mousse. This dessert is a 10/10 in my books, granted I very well might be the least picky person when it comes to anything sweet. Politely served with some berries, whipped cream, and cacao powder, the rich, creamy mousse is a wonderfully balanced sweet treat. Trellis has various other delicious dessert options that cater to different cravings, but this one is perfect for every occasion and just light enough to serve as the final course of your Italian meal experience. Some days you might be feeling the crembuleé or the tiramisu, but you will always come back to the Chocolate Mousse.

Though you may have missed twenty-three years of culinary satisfaction having not yet dined at Trellis Restaurant, it’s not too late. The next time you find yourself driving down El Camino, make sure to stop by Trellis’ charming upstairs patio for delicious Italian cuisine, ambient music, aesthetic grape vines, and an enjoyable evening overall. 

DonnaBella is a senior in her first year of journalism. She is excited about designing and illustrating for The Mark and the M-A Chronicle. In her free time, she enjoys art, listening to music, going on walks, and spending time with friends and family.

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