A Visit to Della Fattoria in Petaluma

A flaky snail and a banana-bran muffin from Della Fattoria.

I owe my latest carb binge to Chef Adam Mali.

When I was dining recently at his restaurant, Brasserie S&P in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco, I’d occasionally come up for air from devouring his dishes only to find myself drawn completely and helplessly to the bread.

Smoky, with a hefty dark crust and a chewy interior full of delightful air holes and developed fermented flavor, I couldn’t stop eating slice after slice.

Of course, I had to ask him where it came from.

When he told me it was baked in wood-fired ovens at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, I knew I had to stop in the next time I was in the vicinity.

So, I did earlier this week.

A hearty loaf fragrant with Meyer lemon and rosemary.

Bon Appetit magazine has called it one of the Top 10 bread bakeries in America. One taste and you’ll agree.

All the flours used are organic. Instead of yeast, the bakery uses a natural starter that is now years old. Replenished with water and flour two or three times a day, the starter is a big reason why these breads have so much flavor.

Another reason is that they are baked in brick ovens at the Weber family’s Petaluma ranch, where they also host farm dinners and guests at their studio apartment on the premises. The ovens are heated with wood fires that are started the day before, then allowed to burn for 12 hours, before being swept clean and sealed to keep in the heat. The hand-shaped loaves then go inside, directly on the hearth.

As I stood at the counter taking it all in, it was hard not to buy one of everything.

I narrowed down my purchases to a baguette and a fragrant Meyer lemon-rosemary round, along with a banana bran muffin, a raisin-studded snail, a flourless chocolate cookie and a peanut butter cookie sandwich.

A peanut butter sandwich cookie and a chewy, fudgy flourless chocolate cookie.

A baguette.

When I got home, I started nibbling. And nibbling. And nibbling.

The muffin was moist with a crunchy streusel topping, the snail nearly as flaky as a croissant, and the cookies just divine.

But it was the bread that truly was the most memorable. The texture of each was what you dream about in the perfect loaf of bread.

With a drizzle of olive oil, a smear of soft butter or a slice of artisan cheese, it just doesn’t get better than that.

No wonder so many top Bay Area restaurants serve it, including Bar Agricole in San Francisco, RN74 in San Francisco, and Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. It’s also sold at grocery stores such as Bi-Rite in San Francisco and select Whole Foods. You’ll also find a Della Fattoria stand at the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the Thursday Marin farmers market at the Marin Civic Center.

If you’re ever near Petaluma, do stop into the inviting cafe-bakery there. You won’t be able to go home empty-handed. Guaranteed.

More Bakeries Worth Checking Out: Cheese Board in Berkeley

And: Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg

And: Model Bakery in St. Helena

And: Love at First Bite in Berkeley

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