Dining Out

Choice restaurants for the winter season.

The prawn and pineapple curry is served at Forchetta/Bastoni. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Café Europe, 104 Calistoga Road, Santa Rosa, 707-538-5255, clickcafeeurope.com
Austrian chef Robert Buchschachermair knows his German and Austrian dishes well and replicates the classics flawlessly. Here are the potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, the spicy red cabbage, wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, sausage platters and good German beer on tap. Plus he adds mainstream nightly specials from other cuisines, such as grilled salmon, chicken with pasta, duck a l’orange and wild boar ragout. Buchschachermair’s Austrian apple strudel for dessert is right on the money. Reviewed 1/6/13. $$-$$$

Steamed Mussels at Cafe Claudio in Sebastopol. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)
Steamed Mussels at Cafe Claudio in Sebastopol. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Café Claudio, 9890 Bodega Highway, Sebastopol, 707-861-9547, cafeclaudio.com
Claudio Capetta has served his well-made Italian specialties in Sonoma County for 17 years, and in his newest venue on Bodega Highway just west of Sebastopol, he continues his string of good restaurants aimed straight at the heart of locals. The building is unassuming; there’s a short but good wine list; the entrees run to the tried and true: chicken cacciatore, chicken Parmigiana, veal scaloppini, scampi fra diavolo. There’s usually a vegetarian risotto and fish of the day. Reviewed 4/7/13. $$-$$$

Dinucci’s Italian Dinners, 14485 Highway 1, Valley Ford, 707-876-3260, dinuccisrestaurant.com
Here’s a place that hasn’t changed much for many years. It serves family-style Italian dinners, with entrees accompanied by all the trimmings: antipasti, minestrone, green salad, bread and side dishes of pasta with meat sauce. There’s a full bar out front and a dining room with a beautiful mural showing a Sonoma County scene before the redwoods were harvested. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Reviewed 1/27/13. $$

Forchetta/Bastoni, 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707-829-9500, forchettabastoni.com
While the Forchetta (fork) side of the menu is Italian, the Bastoni (sticks) side offers Southeast Asian street food, with noodles, chicken and rice with spicy hot sauce, salads, curries and of course, a very good banh mi sandwich. Prices are moderate and there are a lot of choices. The full bar is one of Sebastopol’s top spots for get-togethers and friendly fun. Reviewed 9/22/13. $$

Gyoza at Formosa Bistro in Sebastopol on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. (Jeff Kan Lee/ The Press Democrat)
Gyoza at Formosa Bistro in Sebastopol on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. (Jeff Kan Lee/ The Press Democrat)

Formosa Bistro, 799 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol, 707-823-6688, sebastopolformosabistro.com
Excellent preparations of classic Japanese and Chinese dishes, with some Southeast Asian recipes, too. There are pages of nigiri sushi and fancy maki sushi rolls, along with many entrees and combination plates. The coconut curry begs to be served over rice, and the gyoza dumpling-like pot stickers stuffed with spiced pork are worth a stop. A good list of sakes completes the picture. Reviewed 12/30/12. $-$$

Haku Sushi, 518 Seventh St., Santa Rosa, 707-541-6359, facebook.com
You get a big helping of humor from the way the maki rolls are named, but there’s nothing frivolous about the excellent Japanese food. Nigiri sushi, hand rolls, raw and cooked entrees, and many items to fill a bento box are available. Presentations are as pretty as the food is delicious. Recommended for lunch and dinner. Reviewed 6/2/13. $$-$$$

Jack and Tony’s Restaurant and Whisky Bar, 115 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-4347, jackandtonys.com
Jack and Tony’s in Railroad Square has the best whisky bar in the North Bay, with more than 300 selections from around the world, from rough to smooth, cheap to pricey, and with nuances to satisfy any palate. The food is solid crowd-pleasing; don’t miss the butterscotch pudding, made with real Scotch and butter. Reviewed 1/13/13. $$$-$$$$

La Rosa Tequileria & Grille, 500 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-3663, larosasantarosa.com
The restaurant’s beautiful brick and wooden building in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa delivers many delights, starting with chef Robert Reyes’ inspired Mexican cooking. He gives modern and welcome twists to traditional Mexican dishes. There’s also a bar with 160 tequilas and fresh-squeezed margaritas served in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. It’s a great place to meet up and hang out. Reviewed 3/31/13. $$-$$$

Luma, 500 First St., Petaluma, 707-658-1940, lumapetaluma.com
This is a real find: an unpretentious restaurant with a feel-good vibe, great service and contemporary American cooking featuring nightly specials such as braised pork ribs and blackened catfish. The regular menu includes ancho- and porcini-seared filet mignon, chicken picadillo, and a daily “vegetarian delight,” a tray loaded with wonderfully prepared seasonal fruits and vegetables. The wine list is global and modestly priced. Reviewed 11/3/13. $$$

Cowgirl Crepe made at The Sunflower Caffe in Petaluma, Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)
Cowgirl Crepe made at The Sunflower Caffe in Petaluma, Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

The Sunflower Caffe, 1435 N. McDowell Blvd., Suite 100, Petaluma, 707-792-5300, lydiasorganics.com
If you’re looking for healthy, vegan, gluten-free, organic food, you’ll find it at The Sunflower Caffe, the restaurant offshoot of Lydia’s Organics, a purveyor of such goods to the international market. Yes, The Sunflower Caffe serves burgers, pizza, crepes and more, but they’re all made of cooked or raw nuts, seeds, grains, greens and herbs. The cooks at The Sunflower Caffe make this fare taste good, and often delicious. Reviewed 8/11/13. $-$$

Prelude at the Green Music Center, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, 866-955-6040, sonoma.edu/prelude
Sonoma State is not your parents’ Granola U anymore. The campus’ beautiful Green Music Center has a fine restaurant in Prelude, where concert-goers can dine before or after performances in Weill Hall. The bar offers mixed drinks and wine; the food showcases Sonoma’s bounty from ocean and farm, making concert-going a double delight. Call for schedule and details. Reviewed 7/28/13. $$$$

Press, 587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-967-0550, pressnapavalley.com
Owned by the family that owns Dean & DeLuca and the Oakville Grocery, Press focuses on high-quality steaks and a huge list of Napa Valley wines, from current releases to treasures produced as long ago as the 1960s. The cocktails are superior, too. While many good dishes come from the wood-fired oven, it’s really the steaks that are the stars, among them Wagyu beef from Japan and extravagantly good American beef. Reviewed 10/20/13. $$$$

Restaurant Rudy, 522 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-938-7373, restaurant-rudy.com
When it comes to classic Mediterranean dishes from southern France and Italy, chef Rudy Mihal is one of the best chefs in Sonoma County. Some of his American-style dishes don’t have quite as much flair, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out his cooking. His tortelli, lasagna and country-style duck and pork terrine are wonderful. Reviewed 6/30/13. $$-$$$$

Chicken mattone is served at the Rustic restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)
Chicken mattone is served at the Rustic restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Rustic, Francis’s Favorites, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1485, franciscoppolawinery.com
Francis Ford Coppola needs no introduction, yet at his winery/restaurant/resort/tasting room, you’ll get one anyway. The restaurant, called “Rustic, Francis’s Favorites,” features the Italian dishes of his childhood, plus adult loves like an Argentine grill serving big portions of beef with chimichurri sauce. The wine list is mostly from his winery, and that’s OK. A wood-burning oven makes wonderful pizzas. Reviewed 11/10/13. $-$$$$

Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-939-2415, fairmont.com/sonoma/dining
The food at this classic restaurant sets the standard for high-quality spa food, not only in Sonoma County, but anywhere in the world. The ingredients are mostly locally sourced and treated with respect, so the basic flavors shine through. The chefs use various techniques and carefully measured herbs and condiments to glorify the base ingredients. The service is impeccable. Luxury doesn’t come cheap, but indulge yourself and go. Reviewed 6/16/13. $$$$

Sazon Peruvian Restaurant, 1129 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, 707-523-4346, sazonsr.com
Small and inconspicuous, yet clean and sunny, this southwest Santa Rosa restaurant is a treasure, serving authentic Peruvian food that’s packed with the multicultural flavors that define Peru’s cuisine. The dishes are not only delicious, but beautifully presented. In addition to the regular menu, there are nightly specials. The ceviches are particularly good. Reviewed 5/5/13. $$

SEA Thai Bistro, 2323 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-528-8333, seathaibistro.com
The food at this upscale Thai restaurant can be very, very good, depending on what you order. Generally, the featured entrees, such as the Angel Eggplant Chicken and baked duck breast, are excellent. The spiciness is toned down for the American palate, and ingredients are organic or sustainably grown whenever possible. Reviewed 4/14/13. $$-$$$

Taverna Sofia, 244 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-431-1982, tavernasofia.com
This sweet little taverna offers honest-to-goodness Greek fare. The Mediterranean diet never tasted so good. There are gyros, yes, but also spanakopita, souvlaki, moussaka and copious amounts of tzatziki. Greek coffee, strong and spiced, is available, as well as Greek wines and beers. For dessert, try the house-made baklava. Sofia’s usually on hand to share her sunny attitude and smile. Reviewed 12/2/12. $$

Executive chef John Toulze prepares an heirloom tomato salad at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)
Executive chef John Toulze prepares an heirloom tomato salad at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The Girl & the Fig, 110 West Spain St., Sonoma, 707-933-3000, thegirlandthefig.com
The food has never been better at this restaurant since proprietor Sondra Bernstein and executive chef John Toulze expanded their repertoire during world travels. All of the wines are made from Rhone grape varieties; the full-flavored dishes complement the French country theme. Duck confit, steak frites, wild flounder meuniere, pastis-scented mussels — there’s so much to like. Reviewed 2/17/13. $$-$$$

Tian Yuen, 421 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, 707-894-5697, tianyuencloverdale.com
This pan-Asian restaurant features traditional dishes of Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and the Chinese mainland. The dishes aren’t knock-offs of these cuisines, but faithfully reproduced with skill and excellent ingredients. The chef makes her own curry pastes, and her curries are outstanding. The Japanese component has its own Japanese sushi chef. A fresh and interesting concept. Reviewed 11/17/13 $-$$$

Twist Eatery, 6536 Front St., Forestville, 707-820-8443, twisteatery.com
The place is tiny, with nine stools at the counter, but the owners (the chef and his wife) are friendly, the vibe is warm, and the portions are satisfying. It’s a great place for lunch or late-afternoon/early dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. The food tends to be organic and locally sourced, with soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas and daily specials. The short wine list has some gems. Reviewed 7/14/13. $$

Wild Goat Bistro, 6 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-658-1156, wildgoatbistro.com
Tucked into the back of the Great Petaluma Mill, this bistro specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza, and that means perfectly crisp, thin crusts. There’s lots more to like, mostly dishes with an Italian flair such as local lamb ragu over pappardelle. The salads are organic and the meats are nitrate-free. A good wine list helps out. Reviewed 3/3/13. $$-$$$

Pink Lady Apple Pie at Wishbone restaurant in Petaluma. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)
Pink Lady Apple Pie at Wishbone restaurant in Petaluma. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Wishbone, 841 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-763-2663, wishbonepetaluma.com
If you remember Humble Pie restaurant in Penngrove, you’ll connect with Miriam Donaldson’s rustic country take on California cooking. She and Josh Norwitt are now at Wishbone, the former site of Three Cooks Cafe, and are serving up food that’s a locavore’s delight. Donaldson puts a lot of her personality into dishes like chicken jalapeño pie, a buckwheat crepe pizzetta with gravlox and preserved lemon, and trout wrapped in house-raised bacon. The wine list is full of treasures. Reviewed 11/24/13 $$$

Zazu Restaurant + Farm, 6770 McKinley St., Sebastopol, 707-523-4814, zazukitchen.com
While many restaurants claim to cook farm-to-table, Duskie Estes and John Stewart take the concept to a new level at their restaurant, now located in a spacious room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. They have a small farm at home where they raise animals, gather eggs and grow produce, and a kitchen garden by the restaurant, too. Stewart makes great bacon and salumi, Estes ferments vegetables, and the kitchen turns out American comfort food that’s impossibly tasty. The Sonoma County community is lucky to have them here. Reviewed 9/15/13. $$$-$$$$