Friday, May 9, 2008

New restaurant in town

artichoke and parmesan salad; lamb chops with spinach and favas
Scopa: 109A Plaza Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448; tel. 707-433-5282


THERE ARE NOT MANY FINER SALADS than this: tiny artichokes, the points and outer leaves removed, the artichokes then halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise, dressed with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from discoloring, tossed in a bit of good olive oil, topped with thin shavings of good Parmagiano and maybe a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

That's what I had tonight at Scopa, a new home-cooking Italian restaurant that opened just yesterday on Healdsburg's central plaza. The town isn't exactly short on restaurants; you may wonder how another can be justified. But judging by the menu (which I forgot to bring home; sorry) and especially by tonight's meal this is a different kind of place. Much of the menu is Piemontese, to begin with; a corner of Italy (the northwest corner, to be specific) that's been neglected in this country (is in Italy too, for that matter). The menu features a number of attractive items; we joked that it would be fun to eat every night here, eating through the menu, and then not come back until they change it — though in fact there are several items I'd eat more than once a week.

The place is relaxed, fun, and easy; and the prices are right. After my salad I had lamb chops with a Piemontese polenta fritter speckled with chopped herbs and a healthy serving of spinach on the side, nicely dressed, along with a scattering of succulent fava beans. The lamb was from New Zealand, not Sonoma county; you could tell by the meaty sweetness — I love Sonoma county lamb, but it's a different animal in general, wilder-tasting and smaller on the bone. P1010620.jpg
This was the serious lamb chop, and there were several of them. We sat with a couple of friends at the table on the sidewalk, and were joined by a couple of strangers: it's a communal table, a feature I really welcome.

Dessert? Given the choice of strawberries and balsamico, an affogato, and a cheese plate, I opted for the affogato: vanilla ice cream in a bowl of espresso, served with three or four ripe fresh cherries on the side and a couple of biscotti. The coffee was quite delicious; ditto the ice cream. We'll be back.

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