Start your meal with a shellfish platter for the table. (Aubrie Pick)

First Taste: Chef Michael Mina's Wit & Wisdom serves heaps of both in Sonoma

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Wit & Wisdom Tavern, the first venture into Wine Country for San Francisco's Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina, has opened a few minutes from the historic Sonoma Plaza at the recently renovated Lodge at Sonoma.

And while it may sound cliché, this new dining destination, which falls somewhere between upscale and casual, literally has something for everyone.


(Courtesy of Wit & Wisdom)

The Vibe

I'm often weary of hotel restaurants, which can feel a bit sterile, but it wasn't long before I forgot I was even at a hotel, especially as the entrance is completely separate. There's a small and narrow front patio with a fire pit that was very lively upon arrival, but we were escorted to an enclosed terrace in the back, fit for more intimate, date night–worthy meals where upbeat, Motown music bumps from the speakers all night.

Due do COVID-19 restrictions, I merely got to quickly walk through Wit & Wisdom's interior, which is open concept, airy, and cozy with vaulted ceilings and soothing natural tones. One area looked like a fireside happy hour lounge and I can totally envision sipping cocktails there on a chilly winter evening in the future.

The Hummingbird cocktail at Wit & Wisdom(Jess Lander)

The Drinks

I was pleasantly surprised at the sophistication and ingenuity of the cocktail list and quite literally clapped with glee when my Hummingbird (Ilegal Joven Mezcal, elderflower suze, lemon, passion fruit) was delivered. Printed in the foam was a colorful hummingbird feeding on the nectar of an edible flower. I also tried the Parlor Tricks (Rittenhouse Rye, spiced cinnamon, orange tea, lemon, honey, and ginger), a unique concoction in which the tea bags are soaked in the rye. The menu even has a trio of zero-proof cocktails.

The list of wines by the glass is quite refreshing for Wine Country. While there are plenty of local selections, you won't find the usual players. Instead, discover new producers or grape varieties, such as Sonoma producer Arbe Garbes's Malvasia blend or a Nerello Mascalese rosé from Sicily. A handful of selections are dedicated to wines produced by sommelier-turned-winemakers and the bottle list is a whopping 20 pages, rooted in Sonoma.

Carbonara pizza at Wit & Wisdom(Aubrie Pick)

The Food: A Little Bit of Everything

The Wit & Wisdom menu runs the gamut from shellfish and salads to handmade pastas and wood-fired pizzas to an array of surf and turf options. I recommend starting your meal with a classic seafood tower, otherwise you should be prepared to experience sharp pangs of regret every time a server brings one out to another table (I know I did). Make sure you get the warm Parker rolls for the table too.

There's an underlying theme of creative and elevated twists on comfort food classics, like the lobster pot pie with black truffle, Liberty Farms duck wings, and a savory, crispy-baked pop tart filled with braised short rib and topped with horseradish and fried onions. Similarly, the cheddar-scallion biscuit was a killer interpretation of a pulled pork sandwich, bursting from the center with barbecue pulled pork.

Two entrees magically transported me back to travels throughout Italy: the caponatina agnolotti (bright, fresh, and rich all at once with a parmesan fonduta) and the perfectly charred swordfish, served in a shellfish soup with cheesy crostinis.

Consistent with my Hummingbird cocktail, the presentation of each dish was on point throughout the meal. For the carbonara pizza, our server mixed up poached egg and pecorino Romano tableside before pouring it over the pie. I've vowed to return for the vegetarian-friendly zucchini and feta pizza with squash blossoms. That one, I'm told, has a honey and feta mousse drizzled over the top.

Yet the highlight of the meal was hands down the crispy Berkshire porchetta. A delightfully crispy and salty chicharrón on the outside with tender, slightly sweet meat on the inside, this dish comes out looking like a giant, savory Cinnabon. Grilled peach and a stone fruit mostarda added a little extra sweetness and I relished every single bite.

For dessert, the Chocolate Bar was a peanut butter dream topped with peanut butter dust. But beware—it's so rich, it's best when shared.

// Wit & Wisdom Tavern, 1325 Broadway (Sonoma), michaelmina.net

(Aubrie Pick)

The crispy Berkshire porchetta

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