Think Sonoma County dining, and you probably don’t think “Portuguese cuisine” — but in fact, Wine Country is home to two great restaurants specializing in the southern European food: LaSalette Restaurant and Tasca Tasca, both in the town of Sonoma.
In an interesting touch, restaurateur Manuel Henrique Azevedo owns both restaurants. It’s a true family success story, too, as LaSalette has been in business for more than 20 years, and Azevedo self-published The LaSalette Restaurant Cookbook in 2012.
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.
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.