Cuisine off Campus: Pasta party at Caffe Riace

“Cuisine off Campus” reviews food near Stanford’s campus. We consider what matters to college students: How close is the restaurant? How expensive is the food? And, most importantly, how tasty is it? We hope to help you find your next favorite spot!

“I’m gonna cry. The pasta. Yummy,” said one half of our reviewing team, Isabella Saracco ’23, as we sat down at Caffe Riace for our Tuesday dinner. She was raving about the cannelloni.

The dish, huge pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta and spinach, came topped with a tomato cream sauce. The ricotta stuffing was the perfect texture, moist and not too crumbly. The cannelloni itself also displayed full textural excellence, with crispy baked corners and a center that offered just the right amount of resistance. The flavors of the tomato sauce, simple yet delicious, complemented the heavier stuffing extraordinarily.

Being from Chicago, Illinois and New Haven, Connecticut — locales known for their Italian cuisine, we’ve often been disappointed by Bay Area offerings. But the cannelloni and everything else we had at Caffe Riace was delicious, tasting like home.

The cannelloni is served with two pieces of stuffed pasta, garnished with cheese, sauce and chopped herbs.
The cannelloni was served with two pieces of pasta. Stuffed with ricotta, the portion was both generous and filling. (Photo: ISABELLA SARACCO/The Stanford Daily)

The restaurant’s atmosphere balanced elegance with fun. Walking in, guests are met with quirky statues, such as a classical-looking fountain that features a washing machine. A Greek-style statue of a naked woman holds the washing machine up like a trophy, water pouring out of its front opening.

The place has an extensive outdoor dining area as well as an indoor sitting space, which feels cozy with warm colors and candles at each table. The cafe is closer to east campus, just an 8-minute drive or 9-minute bike ride from EVGR Duan Hall. From west campus, it is either a 12-minute drive or 13-minute bike ride.

A fountain featuring a woman holding a washing machine from which water spills stands in front of Cafe Riace.
Caffe Riace has a beautiful outdoor seating space, full of quirky art displays. One of our favorites was this fountain featuring a woman holding a washing machine. (Photo: SAM WADDOUPS/The Stanford Daily)

The gnocchi pesto is a filling, savory offering at Caffe Riace. It was pillowy with a satisfying softness, while the pesto sauce had a smooth, herbal taste. The portion was enormous: after eating a lot of it, the dish felt a bit monotonous, and we wished the dish had some other element to diversify its flavor profile. But, overall, it was impressive.

The pesto gnocchi sits in a white dish with Parmesan cheese on top.
The gnocchi soaked up the balanced flavor of the pesto sauce, making for a delicious dish. The portion was huge, so we took home leftovers. (Photo: KIRSTEN METTLER/The Stanford Daily)

Our appetizer order was the arancine, which were absolutely very tasty. These fried balls of ricotta and mozzarella were served on top of tomato sauce, which added a fruity note to the savory dish. The acid of the sauce was a satisfying pairing with the rich cheesiness. The arancine was fried to perfection, with crunchy outsides and moist insides.

Two arancine balls sit in a small white dish with sides of tomato sauce and cheese.
The arancine balls came served with a delicious tomato sauce and topped with cheese. Each element of the dish perfectly combined into an especially tasty appetizer. (Photo: ISABELLA SARACCO/The Stanford Daily)

Caffe Riace provides all patrons a complimentary plate of bread and allows for free refills. The bread was served warm and came with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. The bread itself was excellent, garnished with various herbs that added a satisfying flavor. The texture of the bread was heightened by its warmth.

Caffe Riace is on the more expensive side of restaurants we’ve reviewed, with entrees costing between $25 to $49. At this price point, it might be a restaurant more appropriate for special occasions, such as a dinner with visiting family. However, strategic ordering can make Caffe Riace more affordable. Most of the pasta entrees cost around $25 and are large enough to split or take home for leftovers. We took about half of the pesto gnocchi home, and it reheated well.

A red vespa with a side car sat outside of Caffe Riace under a sun umbrella.
A vespa sat at the entrance to Caffe Riace. The outdoor seating area was large and inviting. (Photo: ISABELLA SARACCO/The Stanford Daily)
The finished arancine dish sits on a white table cloth with tongs and leftover sauce in it.
Our arancine appetizer was delicious, and we quickly cleaned the plate. Due to the generous serving sizes, this was one of the only dishes that we didn’t end up taking home. (Photo: ISABELLA SARACCO/The Stanford Daily)

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques. If you have restaurant suggestions for this column to review, email arts ‘at’

Originally posted 2023-05-18 01:53:48.