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New Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol

The name Gravenstein Grill salutes the signature Gravenstein apples of its surrounding Sebastopol neighborhood. And the Bartlett Bar, attached to the restaurant, celebrates that other famous fruit of Sonoma.

So it stands to reason that chef Bob Simontacchi focuses on local ingredients, many grown or produced right in West Sonoma County. Here, he has partnered with general manager Brandon Parkhurst and bar manager Owen Barrett for Northern California cuisine, local wines, handcrafted cocktails and Sonoma County’s famous micro-brews.

Barrett and Simontacchi operated the Brick and Bottle restaurant in Corte Madera for six years, before deciding that Wine Country was a better fit for their artful cooking. Their first order of business: spruce up the place, and bring new energy to the large property.

Taking over the former Marty’s Top of Hill / French Garden space on Bodega Highway and Pleasant Hill road, the restaurant is completely transformed into a chic, cosmopolitan design with wood, white, and plenty of wine racks. The patio is gorgeous, newly framed with glass walls and elegant gardens of flowers, trees and succulents.

For dining, the concept is comfortable, mixing “must” bites for the area like local oysters drizzled in chipotle cocktail sauce and lemon, with modern nibbles like fritto misto of spring vegetables in a raw cashew milk batter and rice flour and cornmeal crust, for dunking in romesco and cocktail sauce.

The charcuterie is housemade, delivering a platter brimming with country pork pate, duck rillettes, chicken liver mousse, celery root salad, marinated and pickled vegetables, whole grain Dijon and warm sourdough crostini. Simontacchi also is a soup maven, offering clam chowder stocked with bacon and dill, plus a daily soup that’s usually vegetarian. If gazpacho is available, get it – the textured tomato puree is marvelously tart and refreshing.

Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, the menu ranges from small plates such as shaved applewood smoked trout over truffled egg salad with arugula salad on brioche toast, to large plates like applewood smoked pork shoulder with Gravenstein apple cider glaze, kale and Napa cabbage slaw and potato puree.

Some dishes have an Asian bent, like the chicken salad with water chestnuts and wontons in sesame-rice wine vinaigrette, or the seared Sonoma County Poultry duck breast with grilled bok choy, soba noodles, miso butter, star-anise-orange gastrique and duck confit wonton.

Others take a Southwestern flair, including a grilled California halibut atop jalapeno cream corn with sautéed spinach, basil aioli, romesco and cherry tomato relish, while others go Thai (think red coconut curry with forbidden rice-quinoa pilaf, butternut squash, broccolini and beet greens.

Still, Sonoma County remains at the heart of the cooking. The chef shows his love with standouts like Crispy Squash Blossoms stuffed with Sonoma goat cheese and decorated in frisee, basil aioli and cherry tomato relish, or a juicy burger of local grass fed beef patty mounded with Sonoma white cheddar pimento cheese, local grass fed beef chili, pickled cabbage slaw, and bread and butter pickles on a parker house bun with a side of fries.

For the finishing touch, Sonoma County’s own Christopher Sawyer is in charge of the wine list. He’s a Petaluma born and raised sommelier who, naturally, showcases Sonoma County wines.

Details: Gravenstein Grill, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, 707-634-6142


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