The name of Healdsburg’s newest downtown restaurant loosely translates from Italian to “many friends.”
It’s emblematic of the convivial vibe to be found at Molti Amici, which took the place of locals’ favorite, Campo Fina, in late June.
It’s the brainchild of three alums of Michelin three-starred SingleThread Farms restaurant, just a block and a half away. Owner and sommelier Jonny Barr is that venerated restaurant’s former general manager. Husband-and-wife Chef Sean McGaughey and Melissa McGaughey, are SingleThread’s former chef de cuisine and hotel baker, respectively. The couple also own Healdsburg’s Quail & Condor bakery and Troubador cafe. At Molti Amici, Seth is the executive chef and Melissa is the pastry chef. They are assisted by Chef de Cuisine Matthew Cargo, former executive sous chef of Gjusta in Los Angeles, who honed his pasta and pizza skills through extensive travels throughout Italy.
Don’t expect fancy, white tablecloth, tweezer-food here, though. Instead, it’s all about handmade pizzas and pastas, made with a confident, deft hand that befits their impressive backgrounds. When I visited a couple weeks ago, as a guest of the restaurant, I enjoyed some of the best pastas and pizzas I’ve had in a while. And if you know my carb addiction, you know that’s saying something.
You know a restaurant has got it going on when it is packed on a Monday night.
The start of the week is typically a sleepy night for most restaurants. But not for Valette in downtown Healdsburg. On a recent Monday night, when I dropped in to dine at the bar solo (paying my own tab at the end), the place was bustling shortly after opening at 5:15 p.m.
Chef Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron Garzini opened the beloved restaurant in 2015 in the same property that their great-grandfather once owned. They turned it into a convivial space, with warm polished wood, big hefty leather bar chairs, and a golden glow from globe chandeliers.
Dustin was off that night. But I did get to meet his father, who in his mid-70s, still flies for the state Department of Forestry, responding to forest fires, including the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma in the last two years.
Ahi poke that stands out from the pack.
When Dustin was a kid, his father would take him to school — dropping him off in his plane — because it was quicker than the school bus. How’s that for one cool ride?
Popovers to absolutely, positively die for — at The Farmer and The Fox.
As I sit down to the most incredible popovers of my life, it’s hard to believe I once rifled around to score discounted clothing and purses in this very same spot.
Yes, the buildings that make up the long-closed St. Helena Outlet Mall, which once housed Escada, DKNY, Coach and Brooks Brothers, have been redeveloped into decidedly new enterprises that surprisingly look like they were there all along.
Cairdean Estate now owns the property,which is lighted by strings of white lights and a glowing circular, tiered fountain. The buildings have been repurposed to include a wine tasting room, a mercantile (to open in the next few months), Butterscots Bakery, and The Farmer and The Fox. It is the latter that has drawn me to visit. Opened in June, this elegant riff on an English pub is headed by Chef Joseph Humphrey, formerly of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Murray Circle in Sausalito and Dixie in San Francisco.
The redone property that used to be an outlet mall.
The English pub-vibe of the bar.
The focal-point wine cellar.
Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at Meadowood, was cooking at a special event off-site on the November evening I was invited as a guest to try the restaurant. But you wouldn’t have known, because the food was still exceptional.