If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if there’s room to make a restaurant even better, then it’s just good business sense to tweak here and there.
That might be the philosophy for two of the northwest county’s best restaurants, Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, and Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg.
The extraordinarily popular Rosso is expanding into a new concept, having just signed a lease for a small piadine café within The Barlow on the edge of downtown Sebastopol. And later this year, co-owners Kevin Cronin and chef John Franchetti are also planning to open a seafood eatery in Santa Rosa.
Shimo, meanwhile, which debuted as a high-end steak house in December, has revamped its concept to be more about ramen noodles, and less about beef.
Certainly piadine, one of the signatures at the original Rosso in central Santa Rosa, is pretty close to pizza, being flatbread fired in a wood-burning oven and smothered in all kinds of boutique goodies. The casual café, in its stripped down form, will be an excellent fit for the mixed-use space that is the proposed 220,000-square-foot culinary and art center at Sebastopol Avenue and Morris Street in a defunct apple processing plant at the west entry to Sebastopol on Hwy. 12.
Part of the draw will be outdoor seating around a fire pit and bocce court, with the overstuffed wrap-like breads finished in toppings like tomatoes, house made mozzarella, mint pesto, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette; or roasted chicken, watercress, apricot chutney, roasted garlic, almonds and blood orange vinaigrette.
Look for even more Rosso sites to come soon. Though the seafood restaurant has no firm location or opening date set yet, Franchetti and Cronin are also working on another pizzeria and wine bar in Petaluma, planned for the downtown Theater District just off Petaluma Blvd. South, and slated to serve its first meal in late September.
As for Shimo in downtown Healdsburg, chef-owner Douglas Keane and co-owner Nick Peyton have just switched from a beef-centric concept into ramen soups, for a more casual concept with pricey steaks on the side. The new menu was introduced this past Friday.
The idea started last month, when Keane added noodle bowls to his bar menu, and found that customers went after them with gusto. Steak lovers can still get their fill, though in smaller portions like an individual six-ounce filet mignon instead of the original, monster cuts including a 48-ounce dry-aged Allen Brothers Porterhouse that was meant to be shared by up to four guests.
For the ramen, diners can begin with a base soup of noodles and vegetables in a choice of broths, then select add-ons like pork chashu, shrimp, kimchee and slow cooked egg, paired with premium sakes.
There’s also a new grazing menu of small plates such as glazed pork belly, prime rib tonkatsu, 42-hour short rib and King salmon in ponzu sauce. For a finishing touch to the changes, Shimo now also serves lunch, in a brief menu of ramen, chilled soba with chicken, hamachi sashimi with Asian pear in soy truffle vinaigrette, and Japanese mountain yam pancake.
Details: Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar, 53 Montgomery Drive (in Creekside Center), Santa Rosa, 707-544-3221, rossopizzeria.com. The Barlow, 200 Morris Street, Sebastopol, 707-824-5600, thebarlow.net. Shimo Modern Steak, 241 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, 707-433-6000, shimomodernsteak.com.
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