Thanks to its evolution into a boutique California resort community with high-end shops, wine tastings rooms, hotels, and B&Bs, the Sonoma County Wine County town of Healdsburg is a hot spot of great dining experiences.
And if there is one cuisine Healdsburg is known for, it’s Italian. Not spaghetti and meatballs, but rustic, regional Italian celebrating local ingredients and often unexpected, authentic recipes.
In the last few years, two significant Italian eateries have joined the scene. Each keeps finessing the art of distinctive dining, bringing a big city feel. From salsa verde-anchovy eggs at Campo Fina, to bottarga pizza at Pizzando, you’re guaranteed taste sensations never before explored in this neck of the woods.
The patio at Campo Fina (330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-395-4640) is a destination in itself. The eatery comes from Dawnelise and Ari Rosen, owners of nearby Scopa (109 Plaza St., #A, Healdsburg, 707-433-5282). Campo Fina's café in front is small and narrow, but packed with chic statement. What used to be a storage lot out back is now an al fresco hot spot, anchored by a freestanding wood-burning pizza oven, bocce court, and a full bar.
You could make a full meal from the 14-item bar menu, nibbling on spicy fried chickpeas, burrata smeared on grilled bread and chunked up with eggplant and figs, or simple green beans tossed with sunflower seeds in vinaigrette.
But bigger entrees will call your name, perhaps a hearty meatball sandwich on a crusty artisan roll, or a tiny, perfect portion of fried chicken that had better be ordered as soon as you sit down, because it’s made in limited amounts and “once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
At Pizzando (301 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-922-5233), it took three chefs to put together the 18-seat eatery, set around an open kitchen accented by a wood oven. Pizzando is an Italian term for “the art of making pizza,” according the bistro owners Piazza Hospitality Group, and this is artistic pie, in such combinations as shaved bottarga (salty shaved tuna roe pouch), fennel, aleppo pepper, and garlic oil.
Those chefs are Spoonbar/h2hotel chef Louis Maldonado, chef de cuisine Ben Davies (formerly Petite Syrah in Santa Rosa), and former A16 toque Liza Shaw as consulting chef.
It’s clear they had a great time putting together the ambitious menu, which is as “basic” as braised pork shoulder tumbled with grilled broccolini, vinegared plum slices, crunchy hazelnuts and bits of pork fat, or as ambitious as hamachi collar over melon and scallions.
Such inventive recipes call for creative cocktails, and Spoonbar bartender Cappy Sorentino delivers with a signature bottled Negroni, or seasonal Bellinis.