Sonoma County chefs love their local ingredients and supporting independent farmers. Menus sing with produce grown in Wine Country gardens, meats from Wine Country ranches, dairy from Wine Country creameries, and seafood from Wine Country rivers and oceans.
Here’s a tip of the dusty John Deere baseball cap to the soil, toil, and the finesse of a locavore chef.
Rosso Pizzeria + Mozzarella Bar, Petaluma
Along with the original Rosso in Santa Rosa, this shrine to artisanal Italian food is the work of chef-owner John Franchetti and co-owner Kevin Cronin. But there’s an extra goodie not found at the first Rosso: a “Latteria” cheese bar. All the fine things are there, including pizzas, piadine, antipasti, and insalati, all crafted with ingredients from top local purveyors from the McEvoy Ranch, to the tripe alla Petaluma smothered in long roasted tomatoes, sofrito, and mint, or roasted octopus tossed with Parsons Homegrown tomatoes, smoked paprika oil, and chiles. Oh, but the cheese. Assortments are made fresh every hour, like straciatella cheese dotted with bottarga (caviar) alongside jalapeño and tomato confit toast; homemade burrata served with Prosciutto di Parma; and mozzarella from Ramini Mozzarella of Petaluma and their real, live Italian water buffalo.
151 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, 707-772-5177.
Girl and the Fig, Sonoma
This longtime classic, French-country destination on the Sonoma Plaza is a delight, for seasonal plates like duck egg ravioli with spring mushrooms, onion crema, green garlic, spring peas and baby carrots sprinkled in smoked paprika. Not too long ago, Lady Gaga turned heads as she dined here, accompanied by her boyfriend and two bodyguards. But really, it’s the regulars who make the scene here, savvy enough to know that the backyard garden patio offers the best seats, and that the best meal can come from asking the servers for the Sonoma-sourced, extra-special plates of the day.
110 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634
Jil and Geoffrey Hales are so committed to farm-to-fork that Jil produced a film, titled Eat the View, that documents the journey one plate of food takes as the ingredients travel across Sonoma County, through the Barndiva kitchen, and into the dining room. You can watch this three-minute video on YouTube.
Chef Ryan Fancher sources the best ingredients from boutique places like Preston Vineyards, Bellwether Farms, Mix Gardens, Earlybird’s Place, and Daniel’s Flats, producing fantastic dishes such as “the farmers market” of puff pastry, ricotta, summer vegetables, tomato, pickled chiles, and olives, or wild Pacific sea bass with Sardinian couscous, avocado, blistered cherry tomato, olives, and local Dungeness crab.
231 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-431-0100
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
White tablecloths drape the tables at this Michelin Star restaurant owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei.
Yet though the food and drink is serious, there’s a warm, friendly mood, and playful dishes like the signature Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, bringing a petite roasted rack, loin cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, and leg confit draped in velvety whole-grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potato. Chef Steve Litke’s shops daily for his frequently-changing, luxurious, Cal-Mediterranean menu showcasing mostly local ingredients.
7871 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-3300
Zazu Kitchen + Farm, Sebastopol
Chef-owner Duskie Estes and her husband-butcher John Stewart have their own farm, where they raise pigs for their Black Pig Meat Co. (mouthwatering bacon and salumi butchered and crafted in the Zazu kitchen). They grow their own produce in raised beds all around their restaurant in The Barlow (artichokes to zucchini).
Next Iron Chef contender Estes makes her own pastas, gelato and pizzas. And nearly everything else on the eclectic menu comes from local purveyors, such as star anise duck, sweet bacon-wrapped dates sprinkled in harissa, “pig face poutine” (juicy pulled meat scatted over skinny, pig-lard confit fries jazzed with a bit of Tabasco gravy and Pt. Reyes blue cheese), and fusilli tossed with crisp-edged pork belly and savory clams brightened with lemon and parsley.
6770 McKinley St. (at The Barlow), Sebastopol, 707-523-4814
Peter Lowell’s, Sebastopol
The ingredients are so fresh here that they’re called “hyperlocal,” meaning they are sourced primarily from the Sebastopol purveyors right around the sleek, chic Cal-Italian café.
Wood-fire pizza comes topped with artisan cheeses and goodies like wild arugula, wild mushrooms, mortadella, and olive tapenade, while panna cotta is made of Rainbow’s End goat milk, pure vanilla, and fresh-picked cherries. Seasonal specialties include summertime “Tomatoes Five Ways,” as oven-roasted, rosemary salsa, kale, and pinenut-stuffed Early Girl, cherry salad, and tomato marinated tofu. 7385 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol, 707-829-1077
Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen
Chef Ari Weiswasser offers just 24 seats in his Cal-Mediterranean bistro, but the star is a big, fire-breathing wood oven. He previously worked as chef de partie at French Laundry, and cooked at Picholine, Daniel, Gilt, and Corton in New York, but perfectly captures the uncomplicated essence of Wine Country cooking with dishes like brussels sprouts in brown sugar bacon marmalade; crispy spaetzle tossed with celery root, huckleberries and Parmesan; and exquisitely crisp and golden brick chicken paired with creamy polenta, lemon and Spanish caper jus. Reservations are a must.
13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384
Chefs Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire met at the Culinary Institute of America and now, as husband and wife, are rocking Sonoma Wine Country with their comfy 40-seat eatery serving top-notch cuisine. Joining them is another talent, partner and co-chef Seth Harvey.
Kedan previously was a chef at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville and Peter Lowell's in Sebastopol, while Harvey worked at the former Petite Syrah. Backyard's daily-changing menu reflects their skills with exotica like wild nettle ravioli with ricotta, egg, bacon, and almond nettle broth. Many ingredients are hyperlocal, such as Singing Frog’s produce, Nightingale bread, Bohemian Creamery cheeses, and Felton Acres chicken.
6566 Front St., Forestville, 707-820-8445
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet