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Restaurants & Bars 6

Della Fattoria . . . The Café

Melanie Wong | Oct 17, 200401:19 AM

The café and retail bakery outlet for Della Fattoria opened in downtown Petaluma two weeks ago. On Thursday, the third day of lunch service, I stopped in for a late lunch/tea time snack. The interior is decorated in warm colors and woods and dolled up for autumn/Halloween with giant pumpkins and squashes as accent pieces and fall floral arrangements. Several customers shared a large communal table, and there are several two and four-tops, as well as a couple tables outside on the sidewalk.

For me, Della Fattoria has been about the bread – it’s still all baked at the ranch's wood-fired ovens and the pastries are made in the new bakery – and the panorama of naked loaves on the racks was a thing of bey. I eagerly eyed the fancy and homey cakes, cheese twists, galettes, cookies, breakfast pastries, a beautiful meringue-topped pie, and other fancies that were all new to me.

Organized by time of day, the menu featuring the famed breads and baked goods is grouped into Breakfast Time, Lunch Time, Tea Time, Aperitivo Time, and Any Time at All. For the carb-adverse, selections include a baby green salad, soup, bowl of olives, stuff egg, and Serrano ham plate. Otherwise everything else (e.g., seasonal bread salad, hot Italian Fontina pressata on polenta bread) has bread or pastries in its core. The tea section features some selections from Mariage Freres and combinations of composed plates and pots of tea. The cold drinks list has some interesting things such as Valrhona chocolate mint milk and Lillet with grapefruit juice. The café has wine and beer license and I took note of the 2003 Domain Tempier rosé for $29 (hopefully for a full size bottle!).

I put together my own tea set with a small pot of Della Blend ($2.50,served in a Boda teapot), a cream biscuit ($1.75), continental sandwich of cucumber and salmon mousseline on campagne bread ($1.75), and cup of butternut squash and yam soup served with bread ($2.00). The houseblend turned out to be a full-bodied black tea with floral high notes and some smoky/spicy depth. Steeped with a big scoop of tea leaves, I enjoyed the second pot more than the first. Wrapped in brown tissue, the continental sandwich was a bit larger than a finger sandwich with good proportions of the light filling to the wonderfully moist crustless bread. The overbaked cream biscuit was too hard and dry, but slathered with the delicious Della jam, I managed to enjoy it anyway. The thick, velvety soup, decorated on top with a swirl of red beet puree, was the intense sweetly vegetal expression of roasted squash and earthy yams, seemingly without cream or chicken stock to dilute the concentrated richness. There was so much to it, I’d just roll a spoonful around on the tongue to savor the weight and taste of this soup. Each small sip inflated into a giant flavor sensation in the mouth – that coffee cupful was as much sensory impact as a couple bowls.

I bought a sample of each of the cookies, displayed in period-style tins in the case (middle photo) to enjoy later. I stopped in Healdsburg to share them with a couple friends after dinner. We agreed that the graham flour hand-shaped wafer was too plain to eat on its own but its thin crispiness might be nice with the right cheese. The old-fashioned snickerdoodle had wonderful spice tones with fresh-baked crunch. We couldn’t figure out if the base of the pale chocolate chip cookie was coconut or oatmeal, but we liked the slightly chewy fibrousness against the crispy bite. The chocolate cookie was nice too with tiny bits of chocolate. We adored the melt-in-the-mouth lavender shortbread, delicately scented with the provencal herb and not overbearing or harsh. The winner of them all was the peanut butter sandwich, filled with silky and intensely peanut-y buttercream. Solly had tipped me to the peanut butter cookies, and they’re all he promised. The peanut butter was $2 and the others were mostly 2/$1.

Della Fattoria
141 Petaluma Blvd. North
Tues-Sat, 7-7
Sun, 9-3

(Disclosure: as I was leaving, I spotted Kay Baumhefner coming out of the kitchen and exchanged some pleasantries. She’s married to one of my wine mentors and long-time drinking buddies. We finally met last year. As she was dressed in civilian clothes, I wondered what her connection to the new venture might be and googled when I got home. Turns out Kay is the executive chef for the Café. I was unaware of her profession until now and also discovered that she is an experienced chef of some renown. Doh!)

Link: http://www.northbay.com/foodwine/gene...

Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

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