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A Taste of Tuscany with Forestville’s Canneti

Amazing dishes: Wild Borage, floppy ear pig cheek chips, salmon caviar and baby Amarant.

Studying a Tuscan map, one discovers a Via de Canneti road. It’s rural and winding, and was one of chef Francesco Torre’s favorite roads from his childhood neighborhood in Italy (What? Don’t we all have cherished childhood memories of roads?).

So naturally, Torre named his new Sonoma County restaurant after it, with the opening of Canneti Roadhouse Italiana last spring. It takes over the space that used to hold Mosaic, and showcases the rustic foods that Torre grew up loving.

Torre most recently executive chef for Fish Restaurant in Sausalito. He also worked as chef of the Badia a Coltibuono Tuscan wine estate, and founded Verace Italian restaurant in Long Island. At the heart of his new eatery is a pasta-making machine, imported from his homeland, and used for home-style comforts like maccheroni with Tuscan meat sauce ($17).

If you’re looking for flash, keep on driving. Many of the dishes here are mildly spiced, relying on top-notch Sonoma County ingredients for oomph. I adore the local crispy anchovy melt with house-pulled mozzarella and capers ($12); it’s a gooey, salty explosion of flavor. Bohemian Creamery caproncino cheese ($3) needs nothing more than a slab of local Honey Siena bread, either, to celebrate its tangy, semi-hard goat cheese flair.

Tuna of the Chianti ($12) isn’t tuna, but a playful mix of shredded pork, tondini beans, olive oil and herbs that’s soul warming on a cool West County night. Quail ($24) is another delicious option, the small bird splayed across a bed of bread cubes with pickled onions.

Just be prepared with your wallet. The setting is so simple it’s almost industrial, with rough brick walls, farmhouse wood tables and chairs, and stools made of wood and rebar at the open-kitchen counter. The ambience is warm and welcoming, and the patio out back beckons for a relaxed meal nestled beneath towering trees.

But this is truly fine dining, and prices hover to the big-city high end, like a petite Alaskan halibut crepe with carrots, pea leaves and crispy guanciale for $26.

For an even better deal, a four-course tasting menu is available for $55, or $85 paired with wine. Canneti also serves lunch, where some dishes seem like bargains, including a dramatic beet linguine tumbled with Manila clams, red chard and garlic tops ($14), or an excellent pork sausage sandwich with braised red onions, tarragon and Meyer lemon mayonnaise on rosemary focaccia ($14).

It’s easy to miss Canneti, zipping along the main drag through the tiny town of Forestville. But slow down, enjoy the drive, and see where this road takes you.

Details: Canneti, 6675 Front St., Forestville, 707-887-2232

More info on restaurants & dining and wineries & wine in Sonoma County.

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