One of Healdsburg's more noteworthy – and frenetic – eateries, Bistro Ralph is the type of place that patrons turn to for big celebration nights. Since space is at a premium and since white brick walls and a metal ceiling intensify crowd noise, the restaurant is certainly not one of the Wine Country's "romantic hideaways." The daily menu is anything but generic, tantalizing patrons with inventive, globally-influenced dishes. For example, a meal may start off in China (calamari seasoned with Szechwan pepper) and move to Europe with a focaccia puff, a hot cup of lobster bisque, or a mouthwatering duck confit. Enjoy the culinary adventure to its utmost.
Known for exquisite desserts and homemade pastas that incorporate fresh local ingredients, Cucina Paradiso bills itself as a "ristorante Italiano with the true Italian flavor," and few would dispute the claim. As evidence, its main course options include roasted duck breast, veal scaloppini, and grilled rack of lamb with roasted bell pepper sauce. Praised by the local press, the strip mall eatery also features a surprisingly impressive repertoire of Californian and Tuscan wines and a pleasant patio.
Known for its enchanting patio, this casual California bistro features an energetic atmosphere and decor that emphasizes local artwork. Pearl's kitchen serves a handful of delicious sandwiches – ahi and pickled onion on sourdough is a lifesaver. In addition, main dishes rarely fail to impress and include chicken verde with lime crème and house tortillas, lemon-garlic-rubbed roast chicken with mashed potatoes, and NY steak au poivre with blue cheese and roasted garlic butter.
Sophisticated but quirky and casual – if you fancy porcine motifs, that is – this snug Healdsburg cafe is known for friendly atmosphere and terrific French-Med (with a Cali touch) cuisine. Dishes that earn particular nods include house-cured pork tenderloin with brandy sauce (ironically enough, the only pork dish on the menu), chicken strips piccata in lemon-caper sauce, and fusilli with smoked chicken and basil cream sauce. Since seating is limited, reservations are suggested.
Open since 1987, this Healdsburg eatery is a village treasure, courtesy of homemade sticky buns, ice-cream sandwiches, biscotti, pizza breads, fruit tarts, and blueberry scones, all prepared with local eggs, milk, and organically-grown fruit. The place also prepares a variety of gourmet coffees and teas (perfect complements to any sweet dish). A small seating section allows you to dine in, or you can stroll over to Historic Plaza Square across the street to enjoy your sugary treat.
Stumble into this understated restaurant, and you'll think you've discovered one of Sonoma Valley's last great treasures. In fact, locals know all about Pho's superb Vietnamese fare – Hanoi-style beef noodle soups earn particular recognition. Diners not wanting to go the soup route still have plenty of choices, and hot dishes range from lemongrass-flavored chicken with white rice to soy-marinated vegetables on crispy fried noodles. Take-out is available.
Gary Chu's friendly, neighborhood eatery caters to Montgomery Village's sushi cravings. Painted in sleek greens and silvers, the restaurant's interior features an enormous saltwater tank and Japan-by-way-of-Cali decor. Indeed, Chu and staff go the extra mile to make sure trendy patrons, many of whom are Bay Area escapees, feel at home while dining on famous California rolls, dragon rolls, and delicious grilled salmon with miso sauce. Take-out is available.
It would be easy to overlook this gem of a Japanese joint, located in an otherwise run-of-the-mill strip center between Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The eatery, with its clean lines and minimalist aesthetic, is reminiscent of trendy Bay Area sushi joints. Hana earns a fair amount of local press for its superb sushi – rolls like the Sake Kawa (grilled salmon skin, daikon sprouts, and pickled burdock root), New York (tobiko, cucumber, and avocado), and Dragon (eel and avocado with shrimp tempura and daikon sprouts). If you're feeling truly bold, unagi-and-foie-gras nigiri is worth sampling. Reservations taken.
The secret is out about the restaurant in this quaint cottage, which serves some of the Sonoma Valley's tastiest Northern Italian fare. Although the understated decor hardly does justice to rotisserie chicken, artful risottos, and homemade osso bucco, Citti has managed to build quite a loyal following. People wanting to add an extra element of romance to the experience may opt for a table on the charming patio. Reservations are suggested.
Nestled in downtown Healdsburg, this open-air charmer has been a Sonoma Valley staple since the 1920s. As such, it ensures that locals and occasional tourists are well fed with a steady supply of lemon curd tarts, raspberry chocolate tortes, and scintillating strawberry-rhubarb pies. If a guilty conscience aims to ward off the idea of "dessert for lunch," never fear: Costeaux serves from-scratch soups, muffuletta sandwiches, and salads. Just be sure to save room for dessert! Box lunches and take-out available.