The Dining Divas: Formaggio Taverna and Patio

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Guests: Donna and Josh Pane—both are lobbyists with Pane & Pane Associates Inc., and Josh also is into real estate investments; Daniel and Laura Groat—he does business at Infinity Investment Management, and she likes to play when she’s not working as administrative assistant for her husband’s business; and Gwen Schoen, senior food writer with The Sacramento Bee

Where: Formaggio Taverna and Patio at the Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova, 11211 Point East Drive, Rancho Cordova; (916) 267-6755; formaggiorestaurant.com

Benefiting organizations: Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Twin Lakes Food Bank of Folsom

1-second review: Donna Pane said it best: “A very nice surprise for a hotel off the freeway.”

Favorite dishes: Warm spinach salad with mustard vinaigrette; mussels that packed a chili wallop; housemade potato chips that came with the cheeseburger; four-cheese pizza; rigatoni with roasted-eggplant ragout; the sea bass special of the day; and the hearty panini. For dessert, we had tiramisu with a twist: chocolate cake and mascarpone topped with a shot of espresso; we also liked the warm lemon cake and pudding with huckleberry sauce, the panna cotta and the gelato trio—it’s different every day.

Wine time: Diva Paulette Bruce chose the wines: 2004 Simi Russian River Chardonnay, 2005 Rosenblum “Pickett Road” Napa Petite Sirah, 2006 Chalone Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and 2005 Vinavera Napa Pinot Grigio. They complemented the food well, and Diva Joan Leineke called the Chalone Pinot excellent.

Extras: We started off with an Italian mojito, made with Bacardi Limon rum, Prosecco, fresh mint and basil and served in a flute. Kathy Sabella and an observant backup crew provided outstanding service, and chef Russell Johnigan kept careful watch on the proceedings.

Ambiance: Casual yet elegant, with a pleasant view of the pool and latticed patio.

Chatter: Cruisers Laura and Dan Groat (they’ve taken 10 cruises and will go on No. 11 in February) look forward to dining in exotic places on exotic food. “I will try anything,” said Laura, “but don’t tell me what it is until I am finished—especially body parts.” For a dinner party at home, Josh Pane prepared halibut but was way too generous with the habanero. “Don’t eat the fish!” shouted one guest after the first bite. “People will remember that dinner for a long time,” said Donna Pane.

Quote of the day: Laura Groat is allergic to corn. “Does that mean I cannot use ethanol in my car?” she mused.

The Dining Divas—Gloria Glyer, Paulette Bruce, Bernice Hagen, Joan Leineke, Gayla Mace and Peg Tomlinson-Poswall—have been wining and dining together since 1993. Every month, they lunch at an area restaurant, taking as their guests people who placed winning bids at charity events. To date, they have raised more than $288,000 for local charities and nonprofits.