I like to think I know West County’s nooks and crannies, but this one got away from me. Sonoma Coast Villa Resort & Spa has been in operation since 1976, and I’ve driven past the 60-acre property on Bodega’s Shoreline Highway countless times, but somehow, I never knew it was there.
In fact, even with Google directions to the site, on a journey to check out the resort’s new Litchfield’s restaurant, I drove right past it. Way west, through Valley Ford, and all the way through Bodega Bay until I finally turned around at Salmon Creek. Doh! The resort is actually just a little bit east of Bodega Highway, and very clearly marked with signage, entry columns flanked by sculpture lions, and a banner.
Yet surrounded by expansive cattle meadows, tucked into a hillside and on a stretch of distractingly beautiful nowhere, the estate is easy to miss. The Mediterranean-style main building sits behind a slight rise and tall trees, so its mustard-tan stucco façade and red tile roof disappears. And for most of its life, the on-site restaurant was for resort guests only.
Owner Charlie Litchfield hopes to put the place back on the map. After his family bought the property in 2010, they leased it back to its former owner and innkeeper, until finally taking over operations in 2016. Litchfield and his father, Perry Litchfield, set forth with extensive renovations, and then, last spring, opened their restaurant to the public.
With just 18 rooms, the resort keeps things cozy, and the dining room fits the mood. Wisely, little has been done to the space except for fresh paint and new furniture of purple chairs and white cloth draped tables. Elegant with a 22-foot wood rafter ceiling, a wood burning fireplace and wood French doors leading to a garden courtyard, the room brims with that incomparable charm of old school Sonoma. It’s easy to imagine its gracious past as a culinary destination created by the owners of San Francisco’s then-renowned Blue Boar Restaurant, when society types would make the trek here for some coastal relaxation.
At first glance, the Mediterranean theme menu seems limited, usually offering three salads, four appetizers, four entrées and three desserts. But the arrangement is thoughtful, showcasing local products and ingredients from the resort’s organic garden. And for a pleasing bargain, there’s a four-course chef’s tasting for $56, with wine pairings for $36.
I could easily make a meal of salads (all $9). One nicely chilled plate brings beautifully crisp asparagus stalks topped in mildly peppery arugula, slivered radish, red onion curls, more asparagus chunks and shaved Parmesan on a swath of creamy champagne dressing. Another seasonal plate delivers strawberries tumbled with arugula, feta and a splash of Italian dressing, while another offering of roasted carrots and beets is dressed with goat cheese and Champagne orange vinaigrette — the no-fuss recipes let the pretty produce shine.
Litchfield, who’s often in the restaurant greeting guests, recommended the bruschetta ($9), and it was a good choice, thanks to the flurry of marvelously juicy, multicolor chopped tomatoes and lots of brilliant garlic and basil atop the soft bread. The four slabs were a mess to eat, falling apart underneath the olive oil and balsamic drizzle, but I didn’t hesitate to use my fingers to get every last bit.
Where: 16702 Shoreline Highway, Bodega
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Weds.-Sun.
Contact: 707-876-9812, litchfields.co
Price: Very expensive, entrées $24-$34
Summary: The charming 1976 hideaway resort has been reborn, with a pleasing new Mediterranean restaurant, too.