One of the benefits of being in a place that produces fine wines and draws lot of visitors is that great restaurants are also going to spring up, and the Sonoma Wine Country is a perfect example of that. Even though the region feels more rustic than Napa Valley, an equal demand for fine cooking has developed, and that's now found in the best Sonoma restaurants.
In the past twenty years or so, Sonoma has experienced a boom in darn good restaurant food. So much so that we find we have to split our reviews in two article. so, let's get started. We've sourced the best Sonoma restaurants, from casual cafes to high-end Michelin-starred dining rooms. Here's Part One —
Aventine has obviously have worked the kinks out at their other two locations — one in Hollywood and the other in San Francisco. The restaurant just feels special and their food is very, very good. Try the house favorite, lasagna al forno. made with authentic ragu with layers of creamy bechamel sauce, seasoned with cinnamon and Italian cheeses.
Bottom Line — A modern Italian-country bistro with a beautiful outdoor patio and an extensive wine list.
The casual cafe is famous for its authentic sourdough, award-winning pastries, all day breakfasts, desserts & espresso. Try the croque madame, made with sourdough, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese and topped with a yolk still runny fried egg.
Bottom Line — A French inspired bistro located on historic Sonoma Plaza.
For 20 years happy Sonoma customers have enjoyed hearty breakfasts, brunches, burgers, fish tacos, margaritas & local, Sonoma wines. This is the place to dine when you're craving simples pleasures done right. There are specials every day of the week: pot roast Mondays, fried chicken Wednesdays, fish tacos and margarita Fridays.
Bottom Line — Local hangout with a solid menu and good cooking.
Luca and Linda Citti serve up authentic Italian cuisine in a traditional trattoria. Their other claim to fame is being featured on Guy Fieri's Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives. We love their rigatoni with red clam sauce, baby clams simmered in a spicy tomato sauce, garlic and fresh herbs.
Bottom Line — Nothing fancy, just well prepared Italian food with flare.
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Try the buttermilk-brined pork chop with chorizo butter and roasted fennel, or the comforting butterscotch pudding, or Yuzu citrus cheesecake. Wine Spectator said about their food, "appealing unfussy sophistication."
Bottom Line — Creative, seasonal American cuisine sourced from local ingredients.
This is seriously good Italian food. Owner Michael Ghilarducci was born in San Francisco's North Beach — "Little Italy" — and had three restaurants in the city before venturing to Sonoma. The tagliatelle is deftly tossed in a bolognese of beef, veal and pork and finished with a dusting of Parmigiano. We also adore chef's pan roasted veal sweetbreads with lobster mushrooms and sherry brown butter sauce.
Bottom Line — Rustic Italian cuisine in an historic setting.
El Dorado's Wagyu beef carpaccio sounds fussy with pea shoots, crispy potatoes, truffle aioli, and parmesan but it's not! Also try the seafood paella with a generous amount of shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams and freshly-caught fish.
Bottom Line — Cutting edge California-Mediterranean cuisine served in a sleek, downtown hotel dining room.
This place has got it going on! Fresh from the wood fire oven are thin-crust pizzas, roasted vegetables like brussel sprouts with brown sugar and bacon marmalade, and brick chicken with summer corn succotash and pickled jalapeño. The wine list is extensive and also has a world-friendly selection with wines from around the globe.
Bottom Line — Unique farmhouse cooking with a rustic California wine country feel.
They call themselves an "oyster grill, martini bar and secret cottages". Stay the night by booking a secret cottage tucked behind the restaurant. Try their crispy zucchini blossom stuffed with brie & drizzled with basil pesto oil. There are three kinds of oysters to choose from; a fresh platter of shucked oysters, crispy fried oysters, oysters Rockefeller or the oyster sampler.
Bottom Line — This longtime favorite Sonoma restaurant offers classic no-fuss cuisine.
This cafe has garnered some glowing reviews from Fodor's, Zagat, Sunset, Frommer's, and even Michelin. The owners & chefs have pedigrees with stints at Chez Panisse and La Toque (Napa). You might try a chicory salad with mustard vinaigrette or grilled lamb with saffron risotto and olive tapenade. As madame is a pastry chef, you must order dessert. On the menu might be nectarine and almond frangipane tart with creme fraiche ice cream or chocolate cherry upside down cake.
Bottom Line — Homey digs with garden seating and farm-to-fork cuisine. The menu changes daily.
Check out their "fresh on draft today" menu that typically has a dozen or so delightful ales, ciders, and beers with charming names like Moonlight, Death & Taxes, Lagunita's Little Sumpin Sumpin or Henhouse Honest Days Work. Round out the beer with crispy calamari, samosas or the sausage skillet.
Bottom Line — Tasty small plates & bites, fresh beers, live music, a fire-pit patio = a good time in Sonoma.
Since 1967 the folks at La Casa have been serving up authentic Mexican food, margaritas, and entertainment. The garden patio feels like you're in old Mexico. You can even find their Mexican foods in specialty food stores in northern California.
Bottom Line — Nothing fancy, just good Mexican grub.
The food of the Mayan region is a world away from the northern Mexican food we're familiar with. Influences from Europe and the Caribbean make Mayan cuisine vibrant, spicy and more refined. Stop in during Happy Hour for a classic Maya margarita and some "really good nachos".
Bottom Line — Festive, casual, Mayan cuisine with an extensive tequila menu.
• Top Sonoma Wineries…
• Sonoma Winery Map…
• 9 Small Sonoma Wineries…
• Visiting Sonoma…
• Best Sonoma Restaurants 1…
• Best Sonoma Restaurants 2…
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