Fine dining was never a perfect fit for Matt and Sonjia Spector, the chef/owners of the critically acclaimed JoLe restaurant in Calistoga and Mattyson in Philadelphia.
“My grandmother always said live life with zoftig,” said Matt. A Holocaust survivor, she often used the Yiddish term that roughly translates as “fullness” that comes with being well-fed. “My uncle would constantly tell me to make sandwiches more zoftig –– or chubby,” Matt laughs, referring to the word’s more cheeky translation––a plump frame which literally means “juicy.” A life of late nights and Instagram-worthy menus just wasn’t the couple’s idea of finding abundant happiness –– or juiciness –– in their lives.
“Matt and I aren’t fancy people,” said Sonjia, who was JoLe’s pastry chef. “We would come greet guests (at JoLe) with flour on our shoes,” she said. Most folks found the informality charming. But some weren’t amused by the casual vibe in tony Napa. “Matt was always trying to fit into a box he wasn’t comfortable in.”
So after selling the restaurant in 2016 (and doing a chef stint at Sonoma’s Girl and the Fig) the couple began looking for a restaurant to call their own again. This time, however, it would be close to their Santa Rosa home and only open for breakfast and lunch, giving them more regular daytime hours rather than perpetual night shifts. With two sons, the couple was ready for more zoftig. Which is exactly why they named their new cafe after that elusive feeling — Zoftig.
Focused on simple, yet well-made sandwiches, salads, and bowls, the concept doesn’t sound particularly fascinating at first pass. Until you realize that Matt makes everything from scratch — from the roasted chicken and Diestel turkey to oven-roasted tomatoes, and fresh porchetta for his own take on a Vietnamese banh mi. It’s a grab-and-go lunchtime spot near downtown Santa Rosa that’s far better than it actually needs to be, featuring bread from their next-door neighbors at Goguette, fresh chicories, and kale from FEED Sonoma and salad add-ins including paprika roasted cauliflower, goat Gouda, and grilled crimini mushrooms.
If, like us, you’ve been jonesing for a giant DIY salad packed with healthy arugula, farro, grapefruit slices and decadent Point Reyes blue cheese or a harvest bowl full of roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries, we’ve found the spot where you’ll be well-fed.
The breakfast menu is still in flux and chances are some of the dishes will change up over time, but we brought our leftovers to the newsroom and the consensus was, essentially — yum. Build-your-own salads are $8.95, and wraps and bowls are between $10.50 and $13.50. Most are easily splittable for two. Beer and sodas available.
Roasted chicken ($11.50): This is what every deli sandwich aspires to be. Shredded, seasoned chicken with apple and Brussels sprouts slaw, tangy dijon mustard, sharp cheddar cheese and aioli on an airy ciabatta roll. We could easily eat this daily.
Falafel Wrap ($10.50): Grilled lavash stuffed with thick falafel patties, hummus, crisp cucumbers, sweet pickled red onions, tahini, and avocado. Too often this Middle Eastern staple is drier than the Negev desert, slathered with bitter, gritty tahini and stuffed with tasteless tomatoes. The sweetness of pickled onions, and moisture of good hummus, avocado and cucumber make it a lunchtime mitzvah.
Beets and Greens Salad ($10.50): A giant bowl of greens studded with roasted beets, walnuts, pickled onions and a light buttermilk dressing. I might swap out a vinaigrette, but a solid meal of a salad.
Hanna Salad ($11): Virtue in a bowl. Peppery arugula with kale, quinoa, tomatoes olives, cukes, roasted red peppers, chickpeas and tahini dressing. Named after Matt’s mom. And as a mother, we know she’d be happy you’re eating your greens.
Korean BBQ Burrito ($12.50): This food truck mashup is stuffed with sweet grilled short ribs, kimchi, daikon and short-grain brown rice inside a tortilla. It’s rib-sticking and hearty — not for dainty eaters.
Philly Special ($11.50): A nod to the Spectors’ time in Philly, where they ran a BYOB small plates restaurant, there’s no steak or cheese whiz in this version (though I’d be totally into that). Instead, fried chicken cutlets, bitter broccoli rabe, roasted garlic and provolone (natch) tell your tastebuds to fuggetaboudit and get to chompin’. Tart oven-roasted tomatoes class the whole thing up a notch.
Banh Mi ($12): Porchetta is the secret ingredient. This rich, crispy rolled pork is paired with tasty chicken liver mousse, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro mint and jalapeño mayo. If you aren’t a huge fan of heat, skip the jalapeños sprinkled on top. They’re often a sizzling mask for lower-quality ingredients, but here, you’ll want to actually taste the ingredients. My favorite sando on the menu.
Zoftig Eatery, 57 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, (707) 738-3558, instagram.com/zoftigeatery