Cetrella Los Altos – Mediterranean Cuisine- Fine Dining Review

Cetrella restaurant Los Altos
Cetrella, Los Altos, Mediterranean style fine dining to recommend to a friend
Written by lalahpolitico

January 26, 2016, Los Altos  — Cetrella is a welcome addition to the very short list of fine dining spots in the City of Los Altos.  [Our “village” —  chock full of homebodies — is more of a place for a lunch, a snack, a cocktail or take-out.]


Accompanied by my husband, Lalah arrived at the Cetrella Los Altos restaurant lobby and Maitre ‘D station unfashionably early around 6pm on a Tuesday and without a reservation. Reservations are strongly recommended for weekends and for prime time dining arrival times of 7 to 8 pm. If you have to wait for a table, the Cetrella bar looked very inviting.

We were seated at a table for two by the large windows which grace the spacious, high-ceiling dining room. Those tables are very nice, but I decided one of the big, comfy booths was something I should sample.  Staff were very accommodating and moved us. [At busy times, you should expect to have a party of 4 to be seated at one of these booths.]

Cetrella Los Altos. Swordfish entree

Cetrella Los Altos. Swordfish entree

Food–Before Dessert

The menu has the full spectrum of fish, fowl, meat and vegetarian offerings. Prices are comparable to everywhere else.  Salads $10 to 15. Appetizers $10 – 20. Entries $24 – 36 or so. Deserts $10 to $20, etc. Even with a large and diverse dining group, everyone should be able to find items that appeal to her or him. There were around 10+ choices in each category

We had the “House Salad” at $10. It was an appealing melange of different very fresh lettuces, with some paper-thin slices of cucumber and other vegetables, imbued with flavors of feta cheese and just a hint of anchovy in a very light vinegar-oil dressing. The radishes were especially notable, crunchy with just a hint of pepper. Yes, this was a Mediterranean type salad.

For the main course, we selected two of the fish entrees: salmon and swordfish. These “entree” versions come with condiment sized portions of “haute-cuisine” vegetables, which were very tasty.  However as an alternative to the “entree” plate, a diner can order the fish, chicken, beef… naked…and order any of 8 popular vegetable side dishes. That option would be for people who are serious about bulking up on their vegetables for health reasons.  Next visit, the hubby and I will try that option. Bring on the broccoli! Free the fennel!

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant salmon entre

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant salmon entre

If you order the salmon, your server will ask you how rare or well-done you prefer your salmon. My husband said, “Not sashimi. Cooked .. but only till no longer red.” Both our fishes were “cooked” but just barely…to that wonderful point of warm, tender moistness. The salmon skin was crisped and was an integral part of the dish.

We loved our salads and entrees and would order them again. We felt they were the right-size portions. Of course, we would probably try something new on our next visit. For those not on a paleo diet, the Cetrella Los Altos menu offers quite a few interesting pasta dishes.

Boisons–Nice wine list, good looking cocktails

I already mentioned the inviting FULL BAR at Cetrella. Lalah is not a cocktail fan, but I am sure the Cetrella bartenders are way more than competent.  The wine list we saw was extensive and interesting. All varietals were covered, and many world regions.  They are doing their own unique selections, not relying on a distributor.

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant, wine list, cocktails

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant, wine list, cocktails. Here their popular and inexpensive New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

The sommelier helped us chose a very nice and inexpensive New Zealand sauvignon blanc to accompany our meal. He joke that if we did not like it, “I will take it back, your choose something else, and it will just be more wine for me to enjoy.” With staff entertainment like that, of course, we left an extra generous gratuity. {We hope this establishment does gratuity sharing.}

Food – Dessert

Cetrella Los Altos is a great place for dessert aficionados. All too often these days, otherwise fine restaurants offer up insipid, uninspired desserts that you’ve had 100 times before. Maybe they think all their clientele is on a diet. Please no more menus with just “chocolate decadence” with a new name, tiramisu, cheesecake with a new name, etc.

Cetrella restaurant, basque cake with blood orange sorbet

Cetrella restaurant, basque cake with blood orange sorbet

Cetrella has the most interesting, enticing list of desserts we’ve seen for a long time. My husband ordered the Basques cake with blood orange sorbet.  I ordered the vanilla  panna cotta. My husband’s cupcake size cake was fresh out of the oven and very crispy on the outside and flavorful. The blood orange sorbet was so natural and a perfect complement to the warm cake.  My vanilla panna cotta was a gelatinous white pudding with a dried, sugared lemon slice, instead of like… a cookie. Mixing the dried orange slice with the pudding was heaven.  I do wish there had been 4 slices instead of 1 slice however [hint, hint.]

Cetrella restaurant, vanilla panna cotta with poires and dried orange slice

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant, vanilla panna cotta with poires and dried orange/lemon slice

Ambiance – romance, gatherings, business – Conversation

The dining room is a large, high ceiling space with incredible windows all around looking out at First Street sidewalk. Yes people can look in at you from outside, but you can look at out them too.  Before social media for sharing, glass windows for sharing!

Spacing between tables and booths is generous.  At dinner time, it seems to be popular for couples, for small corporate group of 6 or so (not talking secrets!), or for friends getting together to talk. Cetrella has a large space where a large party of up to 30 or so, could enjoy a celebration.  This is not a private room, but a private area.

Cetrella restaurant, Los Altos. Bright, high ceiling restaurant where you can converse easily with your party.

Cetrella Los Altos restaurant. A a nicely lighted, high ceiling restaurant where you can converse easily with your party without shouting. Here a week night in winter around 7:30 pm.

This is one of the few restaurants that manages to be a place where you can actually converse with members of your dining party…without shouting.

Recommend to a friend – YES

We will return to Cetrella.  If you are a Los Altan looking for fine dining without a long drive, check out Cetrella. But make a reservation!

Cetrella restaurant Los Altos desert menu January 2016

Cetrella desert menu January 2016. Online menu on open table.com


Cetrella Los Altos Hours:

Saturday-Sunday: 10:30 am-2:30 pm

Monday-Friday: 11:00 am-2:00 pm

Sunday-Thursday: 5:00-9:30 pm
Friday-Saturday: 5:00-10:00 pm

Sunday-Thursday: 5:00-9:30 pm
Friday-Saturday: 5:00-10:00 pm

Friday-Saturday: 6:30-9:30 pm

Reservations on Open Table

Reservations by Phone 650-948-0400

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.

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