Melo's makes an inviting first impression. Iridescent mosaics in the entrance frame the open white and stainless-steel kitchen. Booths illuminated by modern aluminum hanging light fixtures on one side and wavy, plastered walls and clay jars on the other set the stage for Melo's best-selling Combination Pizza, loaded with pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, ham, linguica, bell peppers and sausage - or the Fettuccia con Pollo, one of Melo's signature pastas featuring baked chicken sauteed in sherry.
"The response has been phenomenal," said Melo's co-owner Dominic Cianfarini. "We opened last January 21, but our Pleasant Hill branch has been around for more than 30 years."
"The Pleasant Hill branch has a solid reputation which carried out here," said co-owner John Paul "JP" Piccolo, a graduate of the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners (ICIF) in Northern Italy. He now cooks for Melo's.
"We opened in Brentwood because right now there are only big-chain restaurants around," said Piccolo, who has been dabbling in the kitchen since he was a young boy. "We are one of the few family-run places. We are the best-looking, too. We offer the best-quality food - no cutting corners."
The open kitchen is a big part of the dining experience, as seasoned pizza dough makers knead, toss and spin pizza dough for all to see and smell; even touch. "Sometimes they give the kids little dough balls to spin and toss, too. Some pastas are flambeed, and watching the food being cooked is part of the fun," said Cianfarini.
Enjoying Melo's Four-Cheese Pizza Margherita and Puttanesca Fusilli were Antioch residents Elena Alvarez and Eliana Galvez. "We're so excited that they have opened here in Brentwood," said Galvez. "Now we don't have to go to Pleasant Hill."
"I've come here four times since they opened last week," said Jordan Iglesias from Brentwood, who likes the Gnocchi Bolognese - potato pillows with creamy meat sauce and reggiano parmigiano.
"It's my second time today," said Justin Tamayo. "I like the atmosphere - fun and modern. I like the Pizza Margherita and I recommend the Ceasar's Salad with Citrus Chicken."
"The service is good and friendly," said Antioch resident Marjorie Bell. "There is lots of natural light; the place is fun and casual. I enjoyed the Sonoma Salad. The greens were a nice mix with baby spinach and red romaine. The pears and caramelized walnuts gave a sweet balance to the vinaigrette and the bleu cheese gave the salad an extra kick."
For healthy alternatives, Melo's offers to substitute whole-grain, reduced-gluten, imported penne pasta and vegetarian selections. The servings are hefty, so if you bring a small appetite, it's best to share your pasta platters.
"Come and bring your family, friends or business here," said Cianfarini. "And come early on the weekends, as we tend to get really busy."