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SATISFYING SATURDAYS
12/11/2010
Satisfying Saturdays
The Hottest New Restaurant in Healdsburg

90 SCOPA RESTAURANT 109 Plaza St Ste A, Healdsburg, CA (707) 433-5282 www.scopahealdsburg.com GOOD VALUE

By Charles Olken

Took a quick trip up to Healdsburg, accompanied by my better half, for a book signing event at the Sonoma County Wine Library, a must stop for any wine information seeker. Spoke to the enthusiastic assembled crowd, along with Chris Hanni of the Hanna Winery and Ana Michelle Jordon of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. We each have new books. Theirs being about cooking and mine being the many times mentioned (pardon my immodesty) New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wines and Wineries.

The evening festivities ended at 9:00 PM, and despite its reputation as a tourist mecca, Healdsburg had pretty much shut down by that time and our dining options were severely limited. Our local friends, Ron and Kathleen Washam, met us for dinner afterwards and Ron, whom some of you will know as the former blogger also known as The Hosemaster of Wine, suggested we try a new place to us by the name of Scopa. “It’s a pretty good little Italian restaurant” was all Ron told us. And since we were hungry, and several other choices had already folded their tents for the night, we wound up at Scopa.

Did I tell you that Healdsburg is pretty dead at that time of night? We drove over to the restaurant on the north edge of the Healdsburg Plaza and discovered that Scopa had thankfully replaced one of few poorly run Thai restaurants in our experience. Walking in at 9:30, coming off the deserted streets, you get two immediate surprises. The place was packed to the gills with only our reserved table sitting open, and the crowd was having a ball because the place was noisy. It is a slim, long room with tables running along both walls back to a bar at which several folks were also eating. I mentioned to the wonderfully attentive waitress that it was surprise to find so many people there so late on a rainy Thursday night and she said that this was a slow night. Wow!

Now popularity does not necessarily translate into good food, but at Scopa it did. And it did so at a price so low that we had to pinch ourselves to make sure you are still in wine country--$60 for two, corkage, tax and tip included.

The menu, while not overly fussy, is several steps ahead of your local pasta joint. The top end dishes do not try to compete with fancy places like Perbacco, Acquerello or Bottega, but every item we tried would fit into the antipasti and pasta dishes at those much adored, and three times as expensive establishments.

Our group started with shared appetizers, and I heartily recommend that you follow that pathway to a serious of wonderful two and three bite flavors. Grilled calamari came drizzled with oil and vinegar and was served on a bed of savory beans. Arancini, deep fried risotto balls, were served with a deep dish of homemade tomato sauce. And, as good as those dishes were, the star of the first courses for me was the Chanterelle Budino, a custard round into which Chanterelles had been liberally inserted and served with pickled leeks. I could go back for the Budino alone.

Our mains were a mix of light and heavy. The ladies happily settled for soup and a salad with goat cheese while the hungrier of us had pasta—a lovely version of pasta carbonara, the creamy-sauced wide-noodle dish with prosciutto throughout, and here helped by non-traditional sautéed onions. We once at in Rome at a restaurant called Carbonara, and this version was better than that often-recommended dish. And the pasta with a long-cooked pork ragu, lightly seasoned with tomato and pepper flakes left the two guys scrapping of the last bits.

I will admit that the Olkens don’t go to wine country for pasta. We are looking for treats like Syrah in Santa Rosa, Cyrus in Healdsburg, The French Laundry and it's somewhat easier to get into compatriots in the Napa Valley. But, folks, Scopa is different. It would be a hit in any location you can imagine, including Italy itself.

Scopa Restaurant
109 Plaza St Ste A
Healdsburg, CA
(707) 433-5282
www.scopahealdsburg.com

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