“I imagine heaven to be a lot like spring in Sonoma.” – Herb Caen
Rosso Pizzeria – Let’s just get right to it: this is some of the best pizza in the Bay Area, and certainly my favorite north of the city. And we are blessed with an array of incredible pizza. From the moment you sit down in Santa Rosa’s cheerful pizzeria tucked away in a non-descript strip mall, you sense it’s going to be quite a meal. Fresh Blood Orange Lemonade ($4) with mint and spritzer is a refreshing lunch drink, while the wine selection works any time of day.
House Buratta ($9.75) with prosciutto, olive oil, salt and pepper is pretty much divine. Silky and delicate. It was fun to add a side of Calabrian chile paste for a heat kick and palate cleanser.
Going for salad-like pizza may sound decidedly non-Italian, but quality ingredients make it as delectable as any of the more classic Italian-style pizzas, especially when including a mountain of fresh crab meat. The Crab Louie Piadini ($17) combines two of my loves: Crab Louie and pizza. Sigh.
More traditional pizzas are equally dreamy. On this visit, I ordered the house special pizza of the day ($15): Wild Boar Salami, house tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella. Wow.
All I can say is “go”. Go and enjoy.
Applewood Inn – Tucked away in thick redwood groves as you head down winding roads towards the sea in Sonoma county, Guerneville’s signature restaurant is located in an inn where a family of deer welcomed us as we walked from our car into the restaurant. Though the restaurant looks a touch 1980’s, the glow from fireplaces at either end of the dining room and the restaurant’s upstairs perch overlooking the inn’s courtyard make it feel like a mountain vacation in Italy. It helps that service and food flow graciously in and out (though the kitchen did get way backed up on our Saturday night visit as the evening progressed).
Though a Black Trumpet Mushroom ($12) and Octopus special appetizer did not leave much of an impression, a simple Butterleaf Salad ($9) was pleasantly loaded with Bosc pears, chunks of fresh, soft goat cheese, pistachios and honey-chive vinaigrette. Best of the four appetizers was a Beef Tartare ($11), always a favorite of mine, scooped up with house potato chips, accented by house-cured anchovies, pickled mustard seeds and a quail egg on top.
A memorable entree is Cacao Nib-crusted Rack of California Lamb ($34) with sherry-braised chorizo, stacked onion rings and mint chimichurri to liven things up. American Red Snapper ($28) came in two hefty pieces, one oddly tasting fresher (less fishy) than the other – an uneven dish despite the lovely sunchoke pave it rested atop. More satisfying was a giant, casserole-like disc of Milk-braised Pork ($26) with pancetta potatoes, pea shoots and an aged balsamic drizzle.
Out in this far stretch of woods, this is not only one of the only restaurants around, but surely about the best. I wouldn’t choose it above all others in the county but out West, it’s a warm, gracious meal with friends after a day of wine tasting.