Jake's Lake Tahoe
Tahoe City, Calif.
(Near Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows)
Aloha might not be a Tahoe word, but it is a Tahoe attitude. For evidence, visit Jake's Lake Tahoe, with an atmosphere that is part hama'aina, or beach house, part rustic mountain lodge. Patrons visiting the North Shore lakefront restaurant are greeted by a 22-foot-high front door, a babbling indoor waterfall and delightful lake views. An eclectic crowd of old-time locals, college students and tourists adds to the party.
By dropping in for a drink, skiers can always get the skinny: where to find the best unmarked ski trails or the sweetest surf on the coast or what yacht's skipper needs crew to Maui. The dining room, though adjacent to the bustling bar, retains a secluded, private air. It serves up a continental menu, specializing in fresh seafood dishes such as spicy tomato shellfish soup and horseradish-crusted salmon. Other don't-miss selections include the Creole-style swordfish and the herb-crusted New Zealand rack of lamb. Tuesday night is "Mai Tai Madness," offering half-price sashimi, ahi poke rolls, crab wontons, and, of course, Mai Tais.
Information: 530-583-0188; www.hulapie.com.
Pianeta Cucina Italiana
( 3 1/2 miles from Northstar-At-Tahoe)
It might be Truckee in the dead of winter, but walking down the low-lit steps of Pianeta is like being transported back to the Italian Renaissance. Situated in a turn-of-the-century brick building, Pianeta's warm and comfortable atmosphere welcomes skiers heading back to town from the slopes of Northstar-At-Tahoe and other nearby resorts.
The restaurant atmosphere is upscale, but jeans and flannel shirts are acceptable dress in the convivial, active bar. Frescoed walls, highlighted by Da Vinci drawings, an antique globe collection and mahogany woodwork help make Pianeta an appealing retreat. Known for its antipasto plate, the eatery also lures customers with its signature spicy crab cakes. The menu adheres to traditional Italian cuisine up to a point: Then, in subtle, judicious ways, Pianeta strives to serve lighter, more contemporary versions of the classics.
There's a healthy emphasis on fresh herbs and marinades. The pasta di olio is ideal winter fare-homemade fettuccine with spinach, onions, wild mushrooms, toasted pine nuts and parmigiana. A '97 Antinori reserve chianti classico, or any of the many "Super Tuscans" found on the wine list, is a tempting accompaniment. The house tiramisu-rum- and coffee-infused-is a masterstroke. By itself, it's more than enough to land Pianeta on your must-visit list.
Information: Reservations suggested; 530-587-4694.