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Culture Club

Culinary globe-trotting around Healdsburg Plaza.



Erika Pino

The Tony Hamlet of Healdsburg has long been considered a small town, tempting Wine Country visitors with funky antiques shops and bohemian bistros. But with the recent wave of internationally inspired restaurants opening doors around its downtown plaza, consider it your passport to fabulous fare. From New Orleans po’boys to Portuguese pig’s ears, there’s an eatery for every epicurean genre. The only question is, which craving will you indulge first?


 

Eastside West

Korea and Morocco merge on the menu at Pizzando.
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It sounds like a run-of-the-mill pizza joint dishing up wood-fired pies with carafes of Chianti. But while artisanal pizzas, like the Bianca with Burrata and grilled lemons, are signature offerings, this airy corner enclave that shares its roof with Hotel Healdsburg is anything but traditional. Chef Louis Maldonado, formerly of Aziza in San Francisco and The French Laundry, enjoys the freedom of being able to “bounce around from culture to culture,” he says. “I can’t be bound by any geographic region, so we use fine-dining techniques to make crave-able food.”

Fermented peppers from Turkey garnish the radish and avocado salad, while chicken legs with a Korean edge and wood-grilled prawns are crowd favorites. Defer to an approachable Zinfandel, or opt for premixed bottled cocktails like the Manhattan—a less, shall we say, predictable selection.

Pizzando, 301 Healdsburg Ave., (707) 922-5233, pizzandohealdsburg.com.

Erika Pino

Portuguese Prep

Tascas and other temptations from Café Lucia.
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It may be tucked away down a small corridor between buildings off the main drag, but you’ll soon discover an oasis with lights strewn overhead, lush greenery, and a bubbling fountain. Venture inside Café Lucia’s dimly lit dining room warmed with rich reds and plush leather chairs, where you can linger for a night. Sip a crisp Vinho Verde while nibbling on authentic Portuguese snacks called tascas like pig’s ears and blood sausage. Of course, heartier dishes like a seafood-laden fisherman’s stew and steak with piri piri (African chili pepper) fries turn a snack into a meal.

Lucia, the sister restaurant to Sonoma’s LaSalette, is a brother-and-sister enterprise, where the Azevedo siblings dip into their heritage, tracing back to the Azores (a chain of islands near Lisbon). Referring to all the new diverse restaurants like theirs, owner Lucia says, “the more, the merrier.”

Café Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Ave., (707) 431-1113, cafelucia.net.

Flavors of Home: Café Lucia highlights Portugal’s diverse eats. // Mitch Shenker Studio
 

The Italian Job

Campo Fina makes an Italian offer you can’t refuse.
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Step inside this bustling den on any given night, and you’ll likely hear a convergence of western European languages at the red leather Godfather-esque booth. Housed in a turn-of-the-century, if-these-wall-could-talk saloon, this newborn sibling of nearby Scopa joins the familial ranks reminiscent of New York City’s Italian family favorites. As chef and owner Ari Rosen says, “People’s energy soaks into the walls, and that’s what gives the restaurant life.”

Campo Fina’s heavenly pork and beef meatballs with artisanal tomato sauce, and crispy breaded pork loin sate voracious appetites. The wine list includes local boutique labels while nodding respectfully to its Italian imported counterparts to round out its beverage offerings. Italian-inspired cocktails and a 48-bottle spirits library help get deals done and fuel intense bocce matches on the patio.  

Campo Fina, 330 Healdsburg Ave., (707) 395-4640, campo-fina.com.

Campo Fina: Italian favorites meld with a bustling atmosphere. // Erika Pino
 

Southern Comfort

Filling eats meet warm service at The Parish Café.
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As you pass through the screen door threshold of this New Orleans meets Wine Country bistro, a warm “Welcome, y’all” greeting awaits. With paintings of alligators on the wall, burlap details, and a front patio that rivals those of the French Quarter, the vibe at The Parish Café feels spot-on for chef and owner Rob Lippincott. The Nola native sold beignets at farmers markets before establishing an address of his own.

With roughly 10 po’boy combinations, he dares Southern comfort fanatics to “ask anyone here if it isn’t the best sandwich in town.” For breakfast, sink your teeth into French toast with bourbon sauce or an omelet loaded with crawfish and andouille sausage.

The Parish Café, 60-A Mill St., (707) 431-8474, theparishcafe.com.

Down-home Feel: The Parish Café dishes out New Orleans favorites. // Courtesy of The Parish Café
 

Greek Treats

Savor a taste of Santorini at Taverna Sofia.
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If any restaurant could lure people to its parking lot entrance, it’s Taverna Sofia. Sit in front of the massive blue-and-white mural of Santorini that takes up the entire wall of the front patio long enough, and you might just try to dive into it. That alluring setting accompanied by heat lamps re-creates an island ambience, setting the mood for Greek delectables.

Chef and owner Sofia Petridis-Lim serves her grandmother’s heirloom recipes such as baba ghanoush or tzatziki dips with fresh pita, and moussaka with spiced ground beef. A native of Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, Petridis-Lim notes there were “no authentic Greek places in Sonoma and Marin counties,” so this was her calling.

Taverna Sofia, 244 Healdsburg Ave., (707) 431-1982, tavernasofia.com.

Island Ambience: Taverna Sofia transports diners to Greece. // Erika Pino
 

Spanish Lesson

Barcelonian flair shines at Bravas Bar de Tapas.
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This California bungalow looks more like a surfer shack than a purveyor of grilled a la plancha plates, with rock posters lining the walls and its ’70s rock atmosphere. But take one look at the “hamboners,” and you know you’re in good hams, er, hands, thanks to the masters of paper-thin pork. Bravas is the newest addition to Mark and Terri Stark’s portfolio, the duo behind Willi’s Wine Bar, who are currently nominated for James Beard’s Outstanding
Restaurateur award.

Says Terri Stark, “We tried to keep the food as authentic as possible. Actually, I think some of our dishes are more put together than in Spain. We’re in Healdsburg, and you’ve got to account for presentation.” Dishes range from fried duck egg with chorizo cracklings to creamy chicken croquetas that pay tribute to the couple’s favorite tapas joints in Barcelona.

Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St., (707) 433-7700, starkrestaurants.com/bravas.html.

Flavors of Spain: Bravas Bar de Tapas highlights Spain’s bounty. // Mariah Smith

 

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