When making your way to the entrance of Pietro’s, you can’t help but notice the raised bed garden of trellised tomato plants – both heirloom and Roma — along with eggplant, peppers, and herbs growing on the restaurant exterior and its parking lot of citrus lined trees.
Owner Jim Murdaca opened Pietro’s Trattoria in 1985 after working in the family restaurant business in Vacaville, which has been in existence since 1957, and is named after his father, Pietro Murdaca. When the family immigrated from Calabria, Italy last century, they brought recipes with them.
To take advantage of the garden setting, Pietro’s has a courtyard in the midst of the trellises with sandy colored stucco walls, a stone fireplace, and white linen tables providing just the right ambiance of Italy among the occasional Delta breeze.
For Murdaca, the garden setting is a return to his Italian heritage.
“Practically every Italian I know has a vegetable garden growing in their backyard or on the terrace or roof of their apartment in the city,” Murdaca said, listing the vegetables and herbs grown in his childhood home. “When we expanded the property I had the idea to put a garden patio in and plant it with veggies and fruit.”
The restaurant prides itself on its Southern Italy authenticity and the freshness of what they offer.
“We use everything from the garden in our salads, our sauces, our soups, the filling for our ravioli, the pizza toppings including the oregano, thyme, sage, basil, rosemary,” said Murdaca. “The garden speaks to our freshness. It’s nice that we can go right out and get some of our ingredients.”
Murdaca said their saltimbocca veal and salmon are just two dishes here that are ‘herb-centric’ on the menu.
When it comes to other ingredients, not from the garden, Murdaca makes sure they’re as authentic as possible.
The Parmesan cheese is from Parma, Italy. Their prosciutto, made by Prosciutto di San Daniele, is produced in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the town of San Daniele in the province of Udine, in the extreme northeastern part of Italy.
“We try to be as authentic as we can, all our cheeses and antipasto is from Italy,” said Chef Pete Murdaca, Jim’s son. “If we can’t grow it, we try to get ingredients from Italy or local providers.”
Pete points to the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar that are both produced in Lodi.
Pete Murdaca has been well prepared for his role at the family restaurant where dad once prepared the items.
After completing culinary school in Parma, Italy, Pete went to work at a restaurant in the family’s home village of Antonimina in the Calabria region of Italy. After that, he was off to Rome where his services were requested at a restaurant there.
A dish Pete brings to the Lodi restaurant and has made unique is the pork chop Milanese, breaded bone-in pork chop served over baby arugula and roasted potatoes.
“I picked this up on my travels through Italy,” Pete said. “It’s our take on a fantastic Milanese.”
Other popular dishes are their pastas – all fresh – and their “Bistecca per due” served for two people with certified choice angus beef sliced and topped with fresh corto olive oil, sea salt, and parsley served over a bed of radicchio with a balsamic vinegar reduction, and roasted potatoes.
Another selection recommended by Jim Murdaca is the “Italian Dinner Party” served family style for at least four people.
“This is how it is done in our favorite restaurants in Italy,” Murdaca explained. “It’s a nice way to eat and all can share and try a little of everything.”
With the Italian Dinner Party, the table is served two antipasto dishes, a choice of salad, two pasta selections, and two different entrees including either the bistecca, chicken parmigiana, chicken picatta, or grilled calamari steak.
With menu selections that read like any first-generation Italian recipe book — with affordable prices — Pietro’s has become a popular place to dine in the 209.
It’s obvious Pietro’s Trattoria strives to keep old world food traditions alive in taste and technique in Lodi.Pietro’s Trattoria
317 E. Kettleman Lane
Lodi, CA 95240
Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.