There is a time during dinner service that Galletto Ristorante General Manager Cal Romo has a moment — and it’s usually just a few seconds — when he can look over the dining room and the open kitchen and see it all flow together with efficiency and perfection.
“It’s rewarding when you stand and you look back and the music is on and people are enjoying their food and it’s like, ‘okay, this is why I do this’ and then you go back to the rush,” Romo said.
For 21 years Galletto Ristorante has been a pillar of Modesto’s fine-dining scene and with a new consulting chef leading the kitchen, the excellent reputation they have garnered will continue to thrive and Romo will have more of those moments to savor.
Galletto Ristorante was opened by Tom and Karyn Gallo with a menu that favored Northern Italian cuisine and used ingredients that highlighted the Central Valley’s rich bounty. Recently, the couple handed over the restaurant to their four adult children — Julian, Gianna, Tessa and Will — with Julian and his wife Taylor Gallo taking on the responsibilities of day-to day operations.
The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Modesto in an expansive and architecturally-impressive art-deco building that was once the home of Wells Fargo Bank.
“This is a landmark site and they have kept it beautiful and true to its nature,” Romo said.
For the last year the restaurant has been working with Spencer O’Meara, a culinary veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including 23 as an executive chef.
“We have him come in quarterly and he works with our kitchen on maintaining standards, creativity, creating new menu items and changing our seasonal menu,” Romo said. “Our main focus on bringing Spencer in was to for those seasonal items and to have continuous growth with our menu. “We strive to stay true to our roots, while also giving the community something interesting and different on a regular basis.”
It’s an all-scratch kitchen, meaning everything is made in house from the pasta to the sauces.
“We make all our own pizza dough and every single pasta is made in house,” Romo said.
O’Meara appreciates the farm to fork menu Galletto Ristorante has cultivated and finds inspiration for new dishes from the seasonal bounty.
“When I’m creating a new dish, it goes one way or another,” O’Meara said. “It’s either somebody introduces me to a protein, and I try and build a dish around it. Or I look at the produce list and I’m like, ‘oh, what do we have here? I want that.’ And then I put a protein next to it and start building. Something has to inspire you, because if you force it, it will come across on the plate. But, if something inspires you and you get passionate about it, then that’s when some of your best dishes come out.
When not at Galletto Ristorante, O’Meara resides in Hawaii and while the island paradise is certainly a far cry from the Central Valley, it is where he finds some of his inspiration for dishes that locals end up enjoying.
A favorite for anytime of the year is the bruschetta. For the fall, the crostini are topped with roasted garlic, goat cheese mousse, prosciutto, persimmon slices and a drizzling of balsamic glaze.
A perineal favorite at Galletto Ristorante is the grilled ribeye, said Romo. The 16-ounce steak is grilled to perfection and served alongside confit garlic potatoes, roasted wild mushrooms, charred broccolini, with a mushroom butter and a red wine reduction.
Served year-round, but particularly fitting for a crisp fall night is the pork chop entrée. The 12-ounce bone-in cut is prepared using roasted corn, spring onion, garlic baby kale, fava beans, red peppers, ham hocks and smoked tomato jus.
Seasonal offerings, like the butternut ravioli bring something new to the menu, while others have earned classic status, like the fettuccine.
“All of our pastas are house-made,” O’Meara said. “It has sun-dried tomatoes in there with a little Alfredo sauce and some asparagus. And then we have this gorgeous lobster tail on top. It’s really impressive.”
“It’s a dish that people love and come back for again and again,” Romo said.
Just as impressive as the menu, is Galletto Ristorante’s bar, with more than 150 different varietals, 12 bottled import and domestic beers and seasonal craft cocktails, like the spiced apple sangria, with hints of cinnamon and fresh, crisp apples.
In addition to the dining room, Galletto Ristorante has the wine vault and the Sala room, which can both be used for private parties; and the bocce ball court and the vine arbor patio, which is a bit like finding an Italian hideaway in the middle of downtown Modesto, where no matter the weather, it’s always a pleasant under the arbor.
Galletto Ristorante is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant is located at 1101 J Street in Modesto. For reservations or more information visit galletto.bizor call (209) 523-4500.