New Valette Restaurant in Healdsburg
Chef Dustin Valette came into the public spotlight about six years ago, when he was named executive chef with Charlie Palmer at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. But his history in Sonoma County Wine County runs much deeper, all the way back to his birth in Healdsburg, and even beyond that.
With his new Valette restaurant in downtown Healdsburg, he’s saluting his family tree, specifically his great grandfather Honore Valette, who was born in France, then moved to America in 1902, settling in Healdsburg where he opened Home Bakery and Snowflake Bakery, and also a gas station.
The building that houses Valette restaurant was the site of Home Bakery actually, back in the 1940s, long before restaurateurs Jeff and Susan Mall turned it into Zin Restaurant, owning it for 15 years before handing the keys to chef Valette.
Even the ingredients that go into his eclectic California menu have personal meaning to the chef. Honore’s own children went on to grow grapes and prunes and raise dairy cows in Alexander Valley, and Valette himself grew up working his family ranches spanning into Geyserville.
To realize his dream, he partnered with his brother, Aaron Garzini, who handles restaurant management and sommelier duties. The two had worked together as teenagers at Catelli’s in Geyserville, and at separate Francis Ford Coppola winery properties. Valette also brought in another brother, Les Garzini, to help with construction on such décor statements as a custom charcuterie box for curing heritage meats, and 130-year-old reclaimed redwood plank tables.
Now, over a busy open kitchen, Valette offers the superb artisanal salumi he became famous for at Dry Creek Kitchen. But the rest of the menu is fresh, bright, and a bit playful, showcasing complicated techniques but also celebrating the simple beauty of Sonoma County ingredients.
“We’re a canvas for local farmers, winemakers and artisans to showcase their craft,” Valette explains, about the menu that lists many neighborhood purveyors including Dry Creek Olive Oil Company, Bohemian Creamery, and Valette Estate (a cute pun, since that’s Valette’s home, where he grows produce like the scallions he chars for the scallion emulsion dressing anointing his black quinoa dumplings).
While the menu changes seasonally, in spring, diners are treated to Bernier Farms celeriac soup dotted with toasted pistachio, beet tartare and a golden goat cheese puff; or a Sonoma County salad of MIX garden lettuces, candied kumquats, Bleu d’Auvergne French bleu cheese, cashews and peppers.
Valette was trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and so he’s precise with Hawaiian ahi nicoise decorated in olive oil powder and 64-degree egg yolk, or Liberty Farms smoked duck breast and thigh roulade with Pinot-poached foie gras.
But still, at its heart, this is comfort food, like the William's Ranch lamb with Bernier Farm’s asparagus, crispy sunchokes, violet mustard and Mangalitsa bacon vinaigrette.
It’s home grown Healdsburg food with elegant French touches, just like great grandfather Honore Valette would have appreciated.
Details: Valette, 344 Center Street, 707-473-0946, Healdsburg,