For months, I’d heard inklings about just how fabulous the Petaluma Italian bakery, Stellina Pronto, was. Then, when a good friend, whose pastry bar is as high as mine, raved about it, I knew I had to make a beeline a couple weeks ago when I was in Sonona Wine Country.
All you need do is look for the line out the door to find it, as there almost always is one.
It’s no wonder, because this bakery, which opened last summer, is first-rate.
That’s no surprise when you realize it was opened by Chef Christian Caiazzo and his wife, Katrina Fried, who owned the highly regarded Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station until its closure in August 2020.
The glass cases are filled with all manner of sweet, buttery treats, most of them sweet, but with a surprisingly wide variety of savory ones, too. Look for pizza to make its debut in the future, too.
It’s a solid loaf. It has a beguiling character owing to an unusual backbone of arborio rice. It has every quality you’ve dreamed about in the perfect bread. In short, it’s a keeper.
And I was smitten at the first chewy bite.
Naturally, the recipe comes from one of my favorite bread bakeries — Della Fattoria in Petaluma, where owner Kathleen Weber and her family turn out artisan loaves baked in a wood-fired oven on their ranch. They are breads full of flavor and integrity. Among the first restaurants they supplied was the French Laundry in Yountville, which tells you just how extraordinary the products are.
“Arborio Rice Bread” is from their new cookbook, “Della Fattoria Bread” (Artisan), complete with 63 recipes for everything from Della Fattoria’s signature Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Campagne Boule to Spicy Cheddar Crackers to Sticky Buns.
It appealed to me for its intriguing use of risotto-style rice and because it’s one of the more streamlined recipes in the book as it doesn’t require a starter.
Making bread always takes time and patience. It’s never a quick process. But this particular recipe doesn’t require much heavy-lifting. It also makes two loaves, so you’re amply rewarded after an afternoon of work.
Like so many little girls before me, I grew up with a play kitchen set.
Like you’re surprised, right?
I guess enjoying good food and cooking it — even if only in my pretend world back then — has always been integral in my life.
So, it was with great pleasure that I spent many an afternoon cooking up a storm on my pint-sized stove after pulling out ingredients from my matching mini fridge, then cleaning up in my would-be sink that actually had running water. Well, if you remembered to fill the hidden reservoir.
I remember my parents even bought me “food” for my beloved kitchen. There was a plastic fried egg with strips of plastic bacon attached to it. A plastic golden-browned chicken with its drumsticks looking so plump and enticing. And a big pink ham that looked like you could practically carve it.
But what I would have given to have had these instead: Divine Delights petits fours.
Pretty pastel-hued and resembling the most precious little gifts, they’d make any little girl’s play kitchen a whole lot sweeter.
Of course, the best part is even if you missed out on enjoying these cute little confections as a tot, you can easily enjoy them now as an adult.
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.
Bon Appetit magazine has called it one of the Top 10 bread bakeries in America. One taste and you’ll agree.