June 22, 2012

June 22, 2012
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Tuna crudo at Campo Fina (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

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Honey-roasted carrots at Campo Fina (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

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Campo Fina interior (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

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The outdoor patio at Campo Fina (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

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Jamil Peden, sous chef Trevor Anderson, and Ari Rosen (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

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The Awful Falafel food truck (courtesy of Heather Irwin).

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin.

Healdsburg loves a restaurant opening. Even more so when it includes a bocce court, Mugnaini pizza oven, and chef Ari Rosen.

The popular ~SCOPA~ owner opened his second restaurant, ~CAMPO FINA~, this week, after months of secrecy over the design and concept. Turns out it was well worth the wait.

The food, of course, is Italian, but focused around small plates and pizzas rather than the heartier pastas and entrées of his original restaurant. Design-wise, the big reveal is a large covered patio that’s big enough for a bocce court, 65 seats (including a large family table), a wood-fired pizza oven, a food-prep “shack,” and a bar. Even locals familiar with the space in previous iterations gasped at the transformation. “I didn’t even know this space was back here,” was heard often. Inside are reclaimed fixtures, rough brick walls, and cozy red banquettes.

On the menu are “Cichetti” (little bites), “Forno a Legno” (wood oven), and “Antipasti.” Start at the top and work your way down the list, nibbling here and there and ordering as you go. Carried over from Scopa is Larry Pacini’s ciabatta bread and DCV EVOO ($3.50), which is exactly what ciabatta should be, with a crackling crust and a moist, chewy interior. Honey-roasted carrots with coriander and bread crumbs ($6.50) are sweet, almost to a fault, but each bite yields a perfect texture. Chef de cuisine Jamil Peden’s detailed touches are evident throughout the menu.

Wood-oven pizzas are all the rage in Wine Country, and there are as many styles as there are Mugnaini ovens dotting the vineyards. Too often crusts get blistered and burnt, and carbon is only delicious on campfire marshmallows. Here, simple mushroom, sausage, or margheritas ($12.50-$15.50) get the kiss of the oven without being smothered.

Small plates are made for sharing, and are mostly six- to eight-bite portions. Best bets: smooth chicken liver pâté (served in a mason jar) with peach relish and grilled bread ($8.50); charred octopus with wild chicory and potatoes ($11.50); and yellowfin tuna crudo ($13.50) served with tangy yogurt, fennel, radishes, and sea beans. If you’ve ever questioned dairy with fish, the spritz of lemon and spanking-fresh flavors in this dish will realign that thinking.

The best desserts are simple affairs, a brilliant buttermilk panna cotta with crumbles of biscotti, torn basil, and cherries; or sliced Dry Creek peaches in zinfandel.

The wine list runs two pages, well curated with ten by-the-glass sips and a full page of Sonoma County and Italian reds. Wine cocktails and beer are also available.

If there’s a complaint, it’s only perhaps that the outdoor chairs aren’t made for American derrieres, pinching and squeezing in all the wrong places. The patio can get boisterous with kids and families enjoying themselves—which is kind of the whole point of this übercasual eatery. So if you’re looking for a quiet rendezvous, update your expectations.

Though the motto “When you’re here, you’re family” may belong to an Italian megachain that dreams it had the authenticity of Campo Fina, it certainly fits. So pull up a chair, grab a glass of chianti, and mangia, mangia! Open for dinner daily at 5:30pm. 330 Healdsburg Ave. at North St., Healdsburg, 707-395-4640.

It’s a trucking weekend at the former ~INFINEON RACEWAY~ as mobile kitchens from around the Bay Area hit the tracks. Throughout the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trucks including ~AWFUL FALAFEL~, ~MARK’S THE SPOT~, ~SIFT CUPCAKES~, ~STREET EATZ~ and ~CHEESE GONE WILD~ will be serving up everything from wood-fired pizza to hand-rolled sushi. Highway 121 and Sears Point Road, Sonoma.

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