Located in a historic building moved to new Kernville when Lake Isabella was created in the early 1950s, locally-owned That's Italian Restaurant may be the Kern River Valley's finest dining experience. It is the valley's only Italian restaurant, but That's Italian isn't your typical Italian restaurant. Its menu boasts a unique, European faire that is a favorite of residents and lucky visitors.
That’s Italian is located in the heart of quaint Kernville on Circle Park, which serves as Kernville’s ‘Town Square.’ Almost close enough to hear the raging north fork of the Kern River during the spring and summer rafting season, That’s Italian is located at 9 Big Blue Road. Big Blue was the name of a nearby gold mine discovered in 1860 by Lovely Rogers. The Town of Whiskey Flat, also called "Williamsburg," was established to accommodate miners of the Big Blue Mine. By 1864, the town was renamed Kernville and moved to make way for Lake Isabella built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1948 and 1952. See Old Kernville aka Whiskey Flat .
That’s Italian is one of the model example of one of the architectural styles seen as appropriate to Kernville. In drafting a Specific Plan to preserve Kern River Valley, Kern County’s Planning and Community Development staff and consultants have drafted Architectural Guidelines for new commercial construction and show That’s Italian at the prototype example of the “Rustic Style” – a style it shares with the Sequoia National Forest’s Kern Ranger District office located on the same block (known at the ‘Log Cabin’). The woodsy, log style hearkens back to the extensive logging history which started in the 18802 in the Kern River Watershed (largest watershed in the Sierra). At 4:00 pm on March 23, 1979, the last timber mill closed down at Johnsondale about 25 miles north of Kernville. Fortunately, the loggers left uncut some significant stands of Giant Sequoia trees up to 1,500 years old not all that far from Kernville. See: Trail of 100 Giants, Kern Plateau, Sequoia National Forest and the The President George Bush Tree located in the 1,700-acre Freeman Creek Sequoia Grove off of the Lloyd Meadow Road, on the Western Divide Ranger District within the Giant Sequoia National Monument on the Sequoia National Forest.
The building that houses That’s Italian shares has its own history, dating back to Old Kernville about 3 miles south of its present location. It has changed over the years, but its simple outline is clearly recognizable in historic photographs at the nearby Kern Valley Museum. In 1946, the building served as Kernville’ Post Office (see photos). After it was moved to its present site, it was Johnson's Sporting Goods.
Type of Food Featured at That's Italian
Being the only Italian restaurant in the area and with considerable encouragement from their loyal regular customers, Anna and Romeo spend many hours creating and preparing dishes to please the palate. In That’s Italian, they’ve introduced northern Italian cuisine with a southern Italian influence to the Kern River Valley. They search local sources for the best quality, fresh seasonal ingredients.
Every day, there is a Special menu board (see photos) with a range of tantalizing specials and daily desserts not on the regular menu, which changes often. Even the most frequent regular diners can find something new to try. Dinners usually range in price from $11.95 to $19.95 for Filet Mignon with shrimp. All dinners include soup or salad and home baked garlic bread. The Super Special of the day includes a dessert. The regular menu features tradition pasta favorites with entrées featuring chicken, meat and seafood dishes with several options for vegetarians. They specialize in traditional Italian dishes like Chicken Marsala with mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce, Chicken Piccata in a lemon butter sauce or Eggplant Parmigiana. The Penne Pasta Portofino features homemade Italian sausage, fresh spinach, olive oil, garlic and a touch of red pepper. One of the house specialties is Cannelloni Romano (crêpes filled with chicken, ham, ricotta cheese and spinach). They leave pizza to the area’s popular pizza places, so you won’t find it on their menu.
Though Chef Romeo does most of the cooking, Anna is in charge of the homemade desserts which change daily. Usually four or five are offered on the Special menu board. Bavarian cream puffs cherry and apple tarts and red velvet chocolate mousse cake are just some of the offerings. The dessert choices often include Anna’s homemade Tiramisu – a traditional Italian dessert.
That’s Italian has a full Liquor license and features a special cocktail every night from their full bar. The daily menu includes a well appointed wine list, but guests are welcome to bring a favorite bottle of wine with a corkage fee of $8.50. Beers include domestic and imported beers, featuring at couple beers from Germany and Italy recalling Anna & Romeo’s European roots.
The main dining room is flanked by a more intimate dining room and a woodsy room which often serves private parties. The covered front porch is an excellent place to watch Kernville's Circle Park in on warm Summer evenings.