Think Sonoma County dining, and you probably don’t think “Portuguese cuisine” — but in fact, Wine Country is home to several great restaurants specializing in the southern European food, including LaSalette Restaurant in Sonoma, Café Lucia in Healdsburg, and Tasca Tasca in Sonoma.
In an interesting touch, restaurateur Manuel Henrique Azevedo owns all three restaurants, with his sister Lucia Azevedo Fincher co-owning Café Lucia. It’s a true family success story, too, as LaSalette celebrates 20 years in business this year, while Café Lucia is going six years strong. It debuted in 2012, just after Azevedo self-published The LaSalette Restaurant Cookbook, and Tasca Tasca opened in 2016.
This is authentic Portuguese dining, down to the Portuguese wine list offering sips like Quinta do Regueiro Reserva Alvarinho Vinho Verde alongside many premium Sonoma County wines. The 40-seat spot speaks of European sophistication as well, showcasing elaborately painted Portuguese tiles on the wall and a wood-burning oven behind the bar next to the semi-open kitchen.
Start with a regional specialty of cod, presented in various ways like the light, crisp-moist salt cod cakes set around swaths of cilantro aioli and Moroccan black olive coulis. Bacalhau no forno is another joy, as a homestyle, deeply flavorful salt cod casserole dotted with potatoes, onions, and olives.
You’ll also want to try the caldeirada (Portuguese fisherman’s stew), for a classic of sea bass, scallops, clams, mussels, shrimp, linguiça and potatoes in richly seasoned, fragrant tomato broth perfect for dunking with slightly sweet rolls. Meat lovers, meanwhile, will love feijoada completa, the Brazilian national dish of tender stewed beef, braised pork, and smoked sausage served with salsa-topped rice alongside black beans, orange segments and nicely sour stewed greens.
Don’t miss dessert, either, since it’s often something spectacular. If you’re lucky, the chef will craft the stunning olive oil cake, dolloped in tangy queijo fresco ice cream, crunchy sweet croutons and a slice of candied chouriço (spicy sausage crackle, really, and magical).
Details: 452 First Street E., Suite H, Sonoma, 707-938-1927.
On some nights, the chic spot hosts fado, which is an expressive, gorgeous Portuguese style of singing. On all days, the eatery off the Healdsburg Plaza impresses with Cozinha Nova Portuguesa — “new Portuguese cuisine” — celebrating the varied and complex recipes of Portugal anchored by farm-to-table Sonoma County ingredients.
That all translates to mouthwatering staples such as caldo verde (Portugal's national soup) of potato-thickened beef consommé, collard greens, and linguiça; chorizo crusted pan seared day boat scallops with Japanese sweet potato puree, leek confit, and molho cru; and alcatra (Portuguese pot roast) of slow braised beef short ribs, farmers market vegetables, and parsley-sundried tomato topping.
Don’t miss the appetizer tasting plates, either, bringing beautiful combinations of cheeses, beans, sausages, anchovies, and baby octopus.
Sunday brunch is another popular treat, delivering mimosa flights with your choice of three fruit variations, rotating egg Benedict flavors, and a spin on French toast made with the traditional massa sovada Portuguese sweet bread (try the decadent cheese-filled version). And as an extra bonus, Café Lucia offers free corkage daily, for one 750 ml wine bottle per table.
Details: 235 Healdsburg Ave., Ste. 105, Healdsburg, 707-431-1113
This Portuguese tapas restaurant and wine bar brings casual but chic European dining to Sonoma Plaza — tasca, in fact, means tavern or pub in Spanish. All the native touches are here, from Portuguese music in the background, European soccer on the television, and lots of lovely bar nibbles like queijo de São Jorge cheese with marmalade, Spanish beer nuts, potatoes ao murro with truffle butter, pickles of all kinds, and octopus salad with white beans.
There aren’t any large plates, in fact. The idea is to build a feast with an assortment of dairy, garden, sea, land, and sweet bites — and to have fun experimenting with unusual-for-Sonoma County flavors such as fried spicy pig's ears, goat stew with fingerling potatoes, linguiça caseira pork sausage, and tripe in Port sauce.
Details: 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-996-8272
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.