It’s not often that this much is happening all at once in a town’s culinary world. Here’s a rundown of the latest in Benicia:
Locals had been counting the days until Bella Siena Restaurant & Bar opened its doors. This new restaurant showcases Italian American cuisine in a true fine dining setting. Located in the historic Tannery Building near the foot of First Street, the restaurant and patio sport a spectacular, panoramic view of the scenic Carquinez Strait. There’s also a large, full bar and an extensive wine list.
Favorite menu items include marinated grilled skirt steak with garlic mashed potatoes, house-made onion rings and seasonal vegetables; Vitello Picatta, which is pan-seared veal scaloppini, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach and lemon caper white wine sauce; and Australian filet mignon, a pan-seared, pepper-crusted filet with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, gorgonzola compound butter and a port wine reduction. Open for lunch and dinner, there are also several vegetarian options, a prix fixe lunch menu, kids’ menu and an incredible selection of desserts.
Bella Siena is the sister restaurant of the established Ristorante Allegria in Napa. Allegria is owned by family members of Elizabeth’s husband, Yilmaz Kurt. When the couple decided to open their own restaurant, they chose Benicia for its location and charm. “I’ve always loved Benicia,” said Elizabeth Kurt. “It’s a perfect date town. It’s romantic, the waterfront is amazing, and the people are always friendly. We’re going to commute in the beginning, but definitely plan to live here.” The restaurant opened June 4, 2018.
Coming this summer
One House Bakery
Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada, Hannalee Pervan went on to work at Bouchon Bakery in the Napa Valley, and used to bake bread for The French Laundry. In a prestigious Canadian baking competition, Hannalee made it to the national finals then took home the gold.
Hannalee is opening One House Bakery at 918 First Street in downtown Benicia with the help of her husband, Colin Ward-Henninger and business partners, her parents Peter and Catherine Pervan. She will mill her own flour fresh every day, and bake the bread and pastries daily as well.
One House Bakery will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will serve breakfast and lunch, including quiche, breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, soups and salads. There will also be full coffee service, by Sightglass Coffee, roasted fresh daily a variety of teas and a patio for pet-friendly dining.
Hannalee plans to hire as many veterans as possible to staff the restaurant. “I’ve always admired what they do, and with their service, they may not have been able to get formal training in this field,” she said. “If I can give back by training them and offering what I’ve learned, I’d love to do it.”
She expects to open One House Bakery in August.
Farm & Flour
Brett Benzer expects to open his new restaurant in early August. Located across the street from the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, Farm & Flour will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 700 First Street and will serve sandwiches, salads, breads, cheeses, coffee and more.
With a tagline of “wholesome and neighborly,” the coffee shop and café will feature fresh breads baked in-house, including organic, naturally leavened sourdough. The coffee will come from the East Bay’s States Coffee, which is owned by Brett’s best friend, and the sandwiches and salads will be seasonally inspired based on what’s fresh at local farms.
Restaurant renovations and updates
Heritage Pantry & Spice is a specialty food shop that sells olive oils, vinegars, honeys, sauces, marinades, meats, cheeses, jams, coffee beans and lots of spices. In February 2018, owners Dominick LaLicata and his wife Suzanne Joncoaltz added a sandwich menu that has become a popular option in downtown Benicia.
On August 1, they plan to open in a new location with a new name. Heritage Pantry & Spice will become Crossroads Smokehouse and Deli, and its new location will be the Washington House, which is one of Benicia’s historic buildings. Crossroads Smokehouse and Deli will be in the space long occupied by Kinder’s Meats, Deli and BBQ at 333 First Street. The owners of Kinder’s are retiring.
With an emphasis on ingredients from California, grilled sandwich options include locally smoked pork loin with arugula, black cherry spread and brie cheese; sliced free-range turkey with marinated tomatoes, cranberry mustard and brie; and locally grown roast beef, red peppers, pickled onion and provolone cheese.
For those with a family outing or that special date, Crossroads Smokehouse and Deli will also put together picnic baskets that visitors can take to one of Benicia’s many parks or recreational areas for a picnic with spectacular views.
The Union Hotel Restaurant & Bar has a fresh new look and a new menu. The historical building with an adjacent hotel is 165 years old, and includes large, stained-glass windows that were commissioned nearly 40 years ago to commemorate Benicia’s time as the state capital.
The First Street eatery is a favorite among locals, who love the classic European-style cuisine, which is inspired by Italian, French and Spanish cooking. Owner Gabriel “Gabby” Oviedo is also known for his cocktails using fresh ingredients. New furniture and interior decorating has updated the restaurant’s look.
Go to Sprankles Deli near lunchtime any day of the week, and you’ll see that this eatery is a beloved local favorite. In fact, it’s so popular, the deli recently moved to a much larger space near the top of First Street (in Solano Square at 155 Military East). There’s a selection of specialty sandwiches, deluxe selections, paninis, soups and salads.
Juice House Co. is about the power of food energy, with menu items such as fresh, raw, organic cold-pressed juice, kombucha, “nut mylks” and cold brew coffees. Open at 611 First Street since January 2018, everything sold at Juice House Co. is organic. An example of a popular menu item is the Hulk, which is coconut water, cucumber, blue-green algae and lemon. Owner Tiana Duvauchelle has the blue-green algae flown in frozen from Klamath Lake, and says its full of protein and is good for brain function, mood balancing and energy.
Other recent changes in Benicia’s food scene include The Loft Wine Bar & Restaurant which recently added The Office Speakeasy and Piano Lounge, a secret hidden room with classic “Prohibition cocktails” and music from a restored 1902 piano. Lucca Bar & Grill now has an outdoor beer garden with its own menu and live music Thursday through Sunday.
Named after its street number on First Street, the owners of 907 Grill have remodeled, added a bar, changed the menu and upgraded the back patio. The menu is a creative blend of American cuisine with Mexican specialties.