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Locavores Love the New, Rustic Food Scene in Healdsburg

Locavores Love the New, Rustic Food Scene in Healdsburg



Famished tourists and tuckered wine tasters find no shortage of grub in Healdsburg, a restaurant, lodging, and shopping hub for the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley wine regions. An outbreak of new eateries has surfaced around and nearby the historic town square.


Updated cuisine in Healdsburg focuses on rustic, farm-to-table dishes made with ingredients from local farms and ranches. Menu items range from crispy-crusted pizzas hot out of wood-fired ovens to luscious stone-fruit concoctions, wine-infused sauces for free-range lamb and beef, and fresh-caught, Sonoma Coast seafood; small plates are currently all the rage.


Among the new kids on the block, in a circa-1885 brick building, Campo Fina has comfy banquettes, a wood-slab bar, and a covered courtyard out back where you can play bocce while your pizza bakes in the (you know) wood-burning oven. Chef/owner Ari Rosen’s menu consists of “old school Italian” chichetti (little bites), hearty panino, and grilled and roasted items, like sardines, octopus, quail, and swordfish. Rosen also heads up the wildly popular Scopa, open four years now on the plaza; Scopa appears annually on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Top 100 Restaurants” list.


Diners gather beneath umbrellas on the flower-rimmed patio at the new Wurst Sausage Grill & Beer Garden, to enjoy craft beers with Sheboygan brats, South Side Detroit Polish sausage, Smash Burgers, and more macho food.


While the warm weather lasts, Zazu on the River (aka Pork Shack) is attracting pork lovers to their al fresco eatery right in the middle of the Davis Family Vineyards organic gardens. Toss bocce balls while waiting for pulled pork sandwiches, black pig salumi, bacon toffee lollipops, and Davis Syrah-blackberry sorbet.


Chef Mateo Granados made culinary history in Healdsburg with his Tendejon de la Calle mobile eatery that popped up at farms and wineries. Answering the calls of his mob of fans, he recently opened Cocina Latina, where, on the patio and in the small restaurant, signature rotisserie offerings are suckling pig, and local lamb and chicken. “Modern Yucatan Cuisine” is sourced from around Sonoma County: even the housemade El Yuca bottled sauces are made from local chiles and peppers. Tequila-based cocktails and appetizers are popular with the late-night crowd.


Red lip imprints set the scene at Baci Café and Wine Bar (in the former Manzanita location), a two-year-old restaurant featuring specialties influenced by the northern Italian, Roman, and Veneto regions. The (you knew this) wood-fired oven produces calzones, pizzas, and savory flatbreads, grilled shrimp, chicken, and bruschetta, to go with house-made pastas.


Creative cocktails by a celeb bartender and sliding walls open to the fresh air are big attractions at Spoonbar in the hip, new H2hotel. Mediterranean small plates and the raw bar begin the experience, followed by star chef Louis Maldonado’s contempo inventions of house-made everything from cannelloni to pork shank, chicken, and short ribs, sparked by special BBQ and winery dinners.


A sister property to Spoonbar, just opened Pizzando is a red-awninged pizza cafe in the former Cafe Newsstand on the plaza. Eclectic pizza pies from a Mugnaini oven may be topped with burrata, stinging nettles, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, or lardo. Also on offer: pasta and fried chicken.


Inspired by a trip to Barcelona, chef/owner of several Sonoma County restaurants, Mark Stark, is opening Bravas Bar de Tapas and Bar Bravas in a new renovated Craftsman building (long-time fav Ravenous has moved from this location to its old place near the theater). The Spanish-style tapas bar and a “sidra” or hard cider bar will be unique in this town, along with a Spanish-infused menu of small plates: think Iberico ham, piquillo peppers, and Spanish sherries, enjoyed indoors or on the flowery patio.


Ravenous has nicely spruced up the old place and is dishing up some of the world’s greatest crab cakes, fresh takes on Mexican food, luscious short ribs, hearty soups, and more comfort food.


A few miles north of Healdsburg and worth a special trip is RUSTIC, within Francis Ford Coppola Winery (yes, that FF Coppola). Diners sit indoors by the parrilla (an authentic Argentine grill) or on the terrace, to enjoy Neapolitan pizza and Coppola’s favorite family recipes, along with stunning views of the Alexander Valley. For more casual service, you can sit around the vast swimming pool and order beer, cocktails, and Coppola wine to go with a menu of appetizers, sandwiches, and small pizzas.


—By Karen Misuraca
Travel and culture writer, Karen Misuraca, is the author of Fun With the Family Northern California, and founder of DeepCultureTravel.com.




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