CLOSED

First the foodies found it. Then the chefs found it. Now, the rest of Santa Rosa is getting wind of what may be one of the better restaurants to open ’round these parts in, well, let’s just say its been a bit of a dry spell.

In fact, just a few weeks after opening, Mark Malicki is already outgrowing the postage-stamp sized eatery he opened on a quiet side street downtown in mid-September. Not that anyone without a map and compass could actually find the place. Aside from the bright blue awnings and a sandwich board with the word ‘Eat’ written in masking tape, there’s no sign out front of Café Saint Rose. But hey, when you’re Mark Malicki, you don’t need to advertise.

Through word of mouth, the well-known chef and caterer (who founded Sebastopol’s late Truffles and was exec. chef for Iron Horse Vineyards) has been drawing in curious locals with a tapas-style menu of salads, snacks and sandwiches (along with heartier fare for dinner) since opening his tiny, tiny-tiny storefront eatery a block off Santa Rosa Ave.

Already he’s talking about expansion, though it will only be to add a few more tables “Malicki is adamant that he doesn’t want things to get out of hand. After all, he has a catering business to run. This, he says, is just a fun way for him to actually get his hands back into the kitchen.

So, why is this more than just another quaint eatery? Frankly, I’m hoping the café will have some staying power for the following reasons:

The food is damn good. Malicki is more than just a chef, he’s a caterer. Meaning he understands what people actually want to eat “not just what he wants to serve them. The dishes are simple and approachable, but well seasoned and interesting enough to make them worth the money.

-The prices are approachable (nothing more than $8.50 on the lunch menu, and portions are generous)

-The restaurant gets the neighborhood. Malicki is open from 11am to 8pm, serving up coffee and lattes all day. At night, they play old records, making it a fun hangout. They’ll be getting a beer and wine license in a few weeks, drawing even more revelers.

What to eat? The menu changes daily, based on the chef’s whims. A succulent chanterelle mushroom soup with crema and scallions ($6) shows that Malicki’s a pro in the soup depot, so watch for more hearty, wintertime fare. The chickpea and frisee salad with grilled octopus and aioli is fresh and light, staying well clear of the sometimes oily, goopy mess that you get elsewhere. Also try the braised pork shoulder on a soft roll “the rolls are house made, with a spicy sauce and grilled to crispy goodness. Desserts are generally fairly airy “pistachio and cardamom cake or mangoes and tamarind. If you’re splurging, and only if you’re splurging, try the chocolate crema (think fudge sauce on steroids) with crème chantilly.

Whatever you do, just go soon. Because a find is only truly a find when you’re the first to know.

Café Saint Rose 465 Sebastopol Avenue (between Santa Rosa Ave. and “A” St.) Santa Rosa 707-546-2459
cafestrose.com