Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cafe Saint Rose: Onward and Westward

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Mark Malicki, sitting at a small table in his soon-to-be-evacuated restaurant space, says he'll scrape off the gold lettering in the window when he moves out, leaving only the letters "a-i-n-t."Café Saint Rose, after two years on its very cute and very awkward downtown Santa Rosa backstreet, will be moving out of its small Sebastopol Avenue location at the end of March and heading to greener pastures in west Sonoma County. It'll reopen at the property now occupied by Two Crows Roadhouse, five minutes west of Sebastopol on Bodega Highway, in late April.

Two Crows is locally recognized as one of those unfortunate "doomed locations," having hosted a handful of short-lived tenants in the last five years. But it's a divine spot, right on the creek, and Malicki's got the clout and reputation to give it the traffic it deserves. Just this week, in fact, sources tell us he fielded a reservation from Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, and the Kitchen Sisters, NPR hosts and authors of Hidden Kitchens.

Café Saint Rose, which was essentially the Amy Winehouse of the Bohemian's Best Of awards this year (Best Place to Rekindle Love; Honorable Mention for Best Chef and Best Romantic Dinner), has always been invitingly down-home, sometimes showing movies on the wall during dinner. Malicki goes to Farmers' Markets in the morning to buy fresh ingredients and builds his daily menu around what he finds. He says he'll keep as much of the trademark artistic atmosphere at Café Saint Rose as possible, including the large paintings, colorful fixtures, rotary phone and vintage chandelier; he's also looking to reinstate the cue-it-up-yourself record player that was a fixture of the restaurant's early days in the new location. (The current windowsill, cutely carved by customers with cupcakes, hearts and lovers’ initials, will have to stay behind.)

Malicki seemed wistful when I talked to him about leaving the neighborhood, and was especially saddened about the prejudiced fear some customers openly brandished towards the perceived unsavory elements in the area. I myself live in this neighborhood, and was heartened that he's not jumping ship in a move to placate his customers by getting away from the Greyhound station. Rather, it's fairly cut-and-dry: Malicki says his monthly rent's gone up from $1000 to $4000. Goddamn.

In the interim, be sure to hit up some of Malicki's own favorite places, like K&L Bistro in Sebastopol, Della Fattoria in Petaluma, and the Willow Wood in Graton.

I'll never forget the first time I came to Café Saint Rose, weeks after it first opened. After waiting for a couple minutes in an empty dining room, we watched as Mark and his wife burst through the kitchen door, out of breath, flush-faced and glowing with an unmistakable beam. They played it off legit, handed us some menus. Classic. Here's wishing you the best, buddy.

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