Scopa and Campo Fina in Healdsburg, CA

Scopa and Campo Fina share a chef and owner. And while they are both Italian and serve pizza, Campo Fina is the more casual of the two, with all day menus and a bocce court out back. On a recent visit to Healdsburg, we had dinner at one the first night and the other on the last.

Scopa has some serious cuisine going on in a very cozy, casual setting. The dining room is long and extremely narrow. We were lucky to get a table by the front window which looks out onto the tiny one-table sidewalk patio.

The menu is heavy on antipasti and pizza, so we indulged in both. We started with pan roasted and hot padron peppers that had been tossed in olive oil and sea salt, after which we fought over the grilled calamari with white beans and arugula. The squid was not at all chewy and had a perfect char to it.

The pizzas tasted better than they look in the pictures. The crust was chewy but crisp, and the pizza maker was liberal with his use of toppings. It’s hard to beat a good Margharita pizza, but the Salsiccia with peppers was everyone’s favorite.

Not one to pass up the specialty of the house, we also split Nonna’s chicken, which had been tomato-braised and cooked in a pot with polenta and greens. I have overcome my lifelong disdain for polenta, at least when it’s soft like this was, which is a good thing since otherwise I would have missed out on a comforting, satisfying dish.

We had some great wines that night, including a blend from Preston Vineyards that we liked so much we visited the vineyard the next day and ordered a case to take home.

Pizza also sounded good on our last night in Healdsburg, so we decided to check out the newly opened Campo Fina. We ordered a glass of wine and played bocce while waiting for our table, getting our evening off to a great start as the women beat the men in a fierce competition.

Thinking we needed something at least a bit healthy before diving into pizza, we started with an arugula salad with figs and burrata, which was light and lovely. The octopus is prepared similarly here to the calamari at Scopa, only at Campo Fina it is served with grilled potatoes, wild chicory and black olives. It turned out to be my favorite dish of the night, because though the pizza may have looked better at Campo Fina and had a better char, both the crust and toppings lacked the flavor of their counterparts at Scopa. But it was fun to eat outside below the vines, the restaurant has a festive vibe and it was a pleasant way to end a fabulous trip.

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First Taste: Barndiva in Healdsburg, CA

Barndiva is one of those places that we Midwesterners hope to find on a trip to the West Coast. As its website states,  the restaurant is “a celebration of all things local,” which is California means some pretty awesome produce. And it’s in an old barn that has been remade to create a fabulous, casual, and comfortable setting. And after a day of wine tasting and a big lunch, it was especially nice that the fare wasn’t rich or heavy.

My appetizer was one of the prettiest I have ever laid eyes on. I thought from the description that it would be small, but I was very happily mistaken. Heirloom tomatoes were paired with compressed watermelon, basil, and watercress. I savored every bite.

For my dinner, I chose another appetizer, a riff on a BLT, using pork belly, basil coulis, cherry tomato, potato chips and baby lettuces. I’ve been eating way too much pork belly lately since it’s all the rage right now, but this was the most innovative use of it that I’ve experienced.

The Zucchini & Bellwether Farms Ricotta Lasagna was delightful as well, with handmade pasta and a light tomato vinaigrette. We also enjoyed the  crispy young chicken, which was extremely moist and flavorful.

In addition to the dishes hitting on all cylinders in terms of taste and style, the servers were quite compelling. Our favorite, and the most knowledgeable server we encountered during our stay in Healdsburg, was a retired businessman who loves and knows his wine. He directed us to Littorai Vineyard, which turned out to be a fortuitous recommendation since that ended up being my favorite Pinot Noir of the trip.

Barndiva is always listed as one of the must-go places in Sonoma in magazines and websites. It’s on mine now as well.

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Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA

Cyrus is closing its doors at the end of October. The Le Mars Hotel in which it is housed bought out Douglas Keane’s longterm lease so it can replace Cyrus with a full-service hotel restaurant that offers room service. SO, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been in Healdsburg before the last meal.

We were in Sonoma celebrating a big anniversary with close friends who share the same anniversary year, and Cyrus fit the bill beautifully. It was an over-the-top experience, one which did justice to the special occasion we were toasting. But at $105 for a five course tasting menu or $135 for 8 courses, it was relatively reasonable compared to what is offered at restaurants like the French Laundry in Napa or Eleven Madison Park in New York City. Considering it was only $27 more for an additional 3 courses, we fell for the marketing ploy and went for the 8 courses. And because the cheese course is typically offered a la carte at $17, it seemed like the way to go. Great fun, but way too much food in the end. 

The wine pairing was $135 per person, so we opted for a bottle of wine instead, though it was not easy to find a reasonable price on the ridiculously extensive wine list. Given the size of the list, it was especially impressive that the sommelier didn’t miss a beat in eloquently describing every bottle about which we inquired.

The service throughout the evening was exemplary and not at all stuffy. Most of the servers were young, especially the sommelier who couldn’t have been thirty, and they were all, not surprisingly, superbly trained. But they were also helpful and engaging, which most definitely enhanced our enjoyment.

Before we had even ordered a drink, a server presented us with a spectacular tiered display of bites which represented each of the five tastes–sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami. Then another server rolled a cart of champagne and caviar over to our table. It was an additional charge, so we didn’t partake of the caviar, but considering we were celebrating one of those milestone occasions, champagne was definitely in order.

We were then given an amuse bouche with tiny pearls that reminded us of dippin dots!

Since this post will soon be obsolete, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

Here’s the 8 course tasting menu, which doesn’t include the very impressive array of beautiful housemade breads.

Tasting Menu
“Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato”
Shima Aji Sashimi with Plums and Myoga, Ginger Shiso Dashi Gelée

Thai Lobster with Avocado and Melon
Chorizo Crusted Scallop with Sweet Corn and Lobster Froth
King Salmon with Chanterelles, Radish and Snap Peas, Tomato-Konbu Broth

Slow Cooked Egg with Miso and Morel Fondue, Buckwheat Pasta

Crispy Chicken Thigh with Potato Puree, Black Eyed Peas, Truffle Vinaigrette
Australian Wagyu Beef with Mung Sprouts, Kumquats and Fermented Black Beans

Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses Presented Tableside

Goat Milk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb, Parsley-Lime Ice

Yuzu Crémeux, Bergamot Meringue and Cream Cheese Ice Cream
Milk Chocolate and Macadamia Bar with Compressed Peaches, Rice Sherbet

We picked off some of the dishes below as well and substituted them for a few that are on the “basic” tasting menu, just so we could experience the widest possible range of tastes.

Vegetarian Tasting Menu
Chilled Yellow Pepper and Basil Soup with Zucchini and Almonds

Compressed and Pickled Watermelon with Ume Budo and Sea Beans

Tofu with Tomato Ginger Compote, Walnuts and Cilantro

Steamed Eggplant Dumpling with Tat Soi, Smoked Shiitake Broth

Sweet Corn and Truffle Risotto, Taleggio

Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses Presented Tableside

Goat Milk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb, Parsley-Lime Ice

Yuzu Crémeux, Bergamot Meringue and Cream Cheese Ice Cream
Milk Chocolate and Macadamia Bar with Compressed Peaches

The lobster and risotto dishes were my favorites, with intense and stunning flavors.

But we weren’t done. For our anniversary, a server brought us “milk and cookies”–homemade chocolate cookies with an old-fashioned chocolate soda. AND hot glazed donut bites. AND a cart of chocolates and other final bites.

Phew. A very memorable evening all the way around, capped off by a very long walk.

Cyrus on Urbanspoon