By Molly Jackel
Editor's note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience.
The cafe mocha at Della Fattoria came in a warm cafe au lait bowl that I needed to hold with two hands. It was made with Valrhona chocolate and was topped with three big dollops of fresh, lightly sweetened organic whipped cream.
This, I thought, was poetry in a cup.
Indeed, everything at Della Fattoria is simple but sublime. The menu ranges from oatmeal to salads to sandwiches only, but each thing is an exceptional version of itself. Take the cheddar and bacon pressata. How many times must one be disappointed by soggy, tasteless grilled cheese sandwiches? Yet by merely paying $11 at Della Fattoria, it is possible to fall in love with the humble grilled cheese sandwich all over again. The bread is chewy and salty, evenly browned and crisp. The cheese is molten, and the Hobbs' prosciutto is suspended in the cheese in crisp, savory nuggets. I closed my eyes and saw myself as a mermaid of sorts, enthusiastically flapping my tail to swim, open-mouthed, through a sea of molten, tangy cheese, trapping morsels of bacon in my mouth like a baleen whale sieves krill . . . Anyway, it is also served with a nicely dressed green salad.
A bowl of a very light, fresh-tasting potato-leek, asparagus and pea soup ($6.50) was a good foil for the rich sandwich. The bread salad ($9) was made with polenta bread croutons, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, sweet red pepper, fennel, spinach, sautéed red onions, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Hobbs' pancetta. The dressing was lemony and the croutons were browned and olive-oily, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. From the lovely little wine list, we ordered fizzy glasses of Prosecco to complete Sunday brunch.
Della Fattoria's menu changes daily with whatever's fresh, resulting in a board that is small, simple and organic with every ingredient being high-quality (hence the prices). Though the restaurant is a rather high-end little slice of heaven, the staff is down-to-earth, happy and intelligent. The room has beautiful flower arrangements and nice high ceilings with a burly 12-foot-long wood table running the length, inviting strangers to sit together, family-style.
At its heart, Della Fattoria is a bakery, and the cases are filled with croissants, brioche, fruit tarts, cupcakes, cookies, fetchingly decorated little cakes, dog biscuits and their addictive bread, available at such outlets as Cyrus, the French Laundry and most better grocers. Della Fattoria is a family business; the name, which means "from the farm," refers to the 14-acre Petaluma farm where three generations of the Weber family bake and live. And aren't we lucky to have them as neighbors.
Della Fattoria, 141 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. Open for breakfast and lunch, Tuesday-Saturday; dinner and wine tasting also on Friday; brunch only on Sunday. 707.763.0161.
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From the March 29-April 4, 2006 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2006 Metro Publishing Inc.