First Bite: Monticello in Davis

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I had an opportunity to check out Monticello in Davis this weekend. The new restaurant is located in the space last occupied by Osaka Sushi, next door to the Davis Co-op. Owners Rhonda & Tony Gruska have recently moved operations from Winters, where they had owned a restaurant called Monticello Bistro and ran (and continue to run) a successful catering business. The duo has teamed up with local farmer Jim Eldon of Fiddler’s Green Farm, and the three plan to “showcase seasonal appropriateness, regional resources, freshness, and minimal interference between source and plate” at Monticello.

The space is very attractive – walls are a cheery butter yellow, adorned with gorgeous shots of produce; and a sleek, slightly rounded light wood bar along the opposite wall looks like the outside of a wine barrel. Black-clad waiters are young and cheery, eager to welcome diners to their “farm to table” restaurant.

The highlight of the dinner was a dried fig and goat cheese appetizer served atop an intensely flavored, tart-sweet Port reduction. A nicely grilled New York steak was a pleasing, if pricey ($33) dinner selection, served up with a tumble of braised greens and roasted potato chunks; and my husband’s lamb was wonderfully tender. Diners with special dietary needs are graciously accommodated at Monticello, and vegetarians will be pleased to find some great options (the night we visited, the kitchen was offering an intriguing-sounding Moroccan vegetable stew). And though it isn’t a particularly kid-friendly environment, the kitchen graciously whipped up macaroni and cheese for our children.

630 G Street, Davis (next to the Davis Food Co-op), (530) 792-8066; www.tbuds-catering.com