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The restaurant at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville is still under construction, but during a sneak peak at the 84-seat dining room and 86-seat outdoor terrace last week, the space appeared to live up to its new name: "RUSTIC, Francis' Favorites."

Paneled with dark wood and set around an Argentinean Parilla grill, the restaurant plans to take guests on a journey around the world, through the filmmaker's favorite foods.

The restaurant team will be led by Culinary Manager Nick Petrilli, formerly of Bottega in Yountville and Tra Vigne in St. Helena.

"We wanted a culinary manager to bring Francis' dream to life," said Corey Beck, winemaking director. "Francis is the innovator, and the culinary manager will execute it."

Coppola's favorite dishes, such as Chicken Under a Brick, Mrs. Scorsese's Lemon Chicken and Polynesian Ribs, will star on the first half of the menu, which will change daily.

The rest of the menu will focus on easily recognized dishes, such as hamburgers and authentic Neapolitan pizza baked in a deck oven.

The new look of the restaurant is warm and inviting, with wood-paneled walls added to the main dining room. There will be no white linen tablecloths on the tables.

"Part of the reason for the renovation was to make it more friendly," said Eddie Heintz, director of restaurant operations for Francis Ford Coppola Presents, which includes Zoetrope Cafe in San Francisco's North Beach and Mamarella's at the Napa Airport.

The kitchen has been completed renovated. A Tomasi rotisserie imported from Brazil will turn out churrascaria-style barbecued meats, poultry and fish.

Coppola purchased the former Chateau Souverain Winery in 2006. The new restaurant is part of a major renovation due to be unveiled at the end of July, after four years of planning and construction costing millions of dollars.

When it opens, the winery will boast some unusual, family-friendly attractions, including a swimming pool with changing cabins and a pool-side cafe, game tables and bocce courts, a performing arts pavilion for concerts and puppet shows and a museum's worth of movie memorabilia from Coppola's storied career, including Don Corleone's desk from "The Godfather" (1972).

"How many places do you know where the kids wake up and say, &‘Let's go to the winery?'" Heintz said.

In years past, the winery hosted a farmers market on summer Friday nights and tossed pizzas for guests.

When it opens this summer, the winery will feature a Neighbors Market on Sunday evenings showcasing local farm produce, along with an innovative, family-style meal called <CF102>a tavola</CF>.

"You sit at the table, with no menu, and plates of food arrive," Heintz said. "Everything is in the middle, and people are sharing and different wines are being poured."

The wine-tasting bar will serve more than 40 wines produced on-site. But that's not all.

A bar adjacent to the restaurant will serve aperitifs, cocktails, beers and wines from neighboring wineries and producers from around the world.

Wine tasting will be free for the Rosso & Bianco wines and cost up to $10 for four reserve wines.

Guests can also choose to do a wine and food pairing, take a wine education seminar and go on several tours, including a behind-the-scenes experience of grape harvest in the fall.<EL3>

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

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