8 Cozy Restaurants With Wood-Burning Ovens or Fireplaces
Sonoma County restaurants know that the sound and aroma of crackling wood on a fall or winter day is like magic, whether it's coming from a fireplace, or from a wood-burning oven leaving its blistering kiss on your meal. The warmth makes you feel all cozy inside, and the flames – burning up to 900 degrees for a bubbly-crust pizza – impart extra delicious flavor.
Stark's Steak & Seafood, Santa Rosa
This destination is a bit hidden away in downtown Santa Rosa on the edge of the railroad tracks, but it's well worth seeking out for some of Sonoma's best steaks. The red neon Stark's marquee shines like a beacon, guiding your way to a dark, clubby, ultra friendly retro haunt that wows with a thoroughly modern vibe to the food and drink.
Choose your seat: maybe the polished wood and black leather-decorated front room with its cozy, roaring fireplace and busy bar, or the more formal dining room with red lamps, white linens, and high booths. Either way, you'll eat well, with Prime steaks you can top with foie gras, bone marrow or truffled egg, ocean-fresh market fish like ahi, briny oysters, and truffle fries. Any meal is all the better, too, with a perfect, chilled martini.
Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Geyserville
A growling, tusked pig sculpture tops the wood-burning oven in this Geyserville restaurant that celebrates the seasons of California in an Italian state of mind. The specialties of the house are Neopolitan-style pizza, handmade pasta, house-cured salumi, and daily specials from that wood-burning oven.
Chef Dino Bugica hand-pulls the pizza dough, scatters on artisanal toppings, then feeds his creations to the oven. They emerge charred and golden, crisp and pillowy, and generously decorated with housemade sausage chunks, red onion, and white pecorino cheese shavings, or juicy Lingurian clams, broccoli raab, parsley, tomato, pecorino, herbs, and garlic.
The menu changes daily, featuring consciously-sourced meats, fish, and produce from local farms, ranches, and fisheries that are guided by the principles of sustainability.
Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar, Santa Rosa
Inspired by the Slow Food movement of Italy and local Sonoma County farmers, the Santa Rosa pizzeria & wine bar opened in 2007. The wine bar boasts more than 100 wines from around the world.
The food menu focuses on rustic Italian fare like salumi, antipasti, piadine (salad-topped flatbread), and nightly specials like oven-roasted Dungeness crab or risotto, but the spotlight is on pizza baked in a wood-burning oven to a puffy-edged finish. Locally sourced toppings include McEvoy Ranch EVOO and Sonoma-grown greens and eggs.
Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen
Chef Ari Weiswasser offers just 24 seats in his Cal-Mediterranean bistro, where the star is a big, fire-breathing wood oven. Weiswasser previously worked as chef de partie at French Laundry, and also cooked at Picholine, Daniel, Gilt, and Corton in New York. He 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.
Gourmet au Bay, Bodega Bay
Part wine shop, part restaurant, and part gift shop, Gourmet Au Bay is home to a 900-degree wood-fired oven. Their seasonal menu can include wood-fired prawns, crab cakes, roasted mussels, creative flatbreads, as well as a rich and tasty house-made clam chowder. Check selections off on the deli-style menu, drop it off at the bar, and then take a seat at the comfy bar tables or on the protected outdoor patio, and taste a flight of wines served on a mini-surfboard.
Campo Fina, Healdsburg
Jackson's Bar and Oven, Santa Rosa
Of course, this is Sonoma County, so there are always more delightful options to consider.
Renowned for their breads and baked goods, Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery in Duncans Mills and Wild Flour Bread in Freestone both create their delights in wood-fired ovens. Plus, several other restaurants feature wood-fired ovens:
Franchetti's Kitchen, Beer + Wine Stube in Santa Rosa creates thin crust wood-fired pizzas that are properly moist in the middle and crisply bubbled on the edges, in addition to its full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.
Central Market in Petaluma cooks up farm-to-table rustic California-Mediterranean cuisine, with bread baked daily in its wood-fired oven.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.