Walking through the door of the new Café Lucia is like walking into a friend’s living room. The roomy leatherette chairs offer squishy comfort, inviting guests to linger. The large photographs on the wall whisk you away to São Jorge in the Azores and suddenly you are transported into a Portuguese experience. On the west wall a portrait of a hydrangea symbolizes the family’s roots.
A central U-shaped bar offers a pleasant place to order tasca tasting plates and have a drink. The enclosed outdoor courtyard, decorated in fairy lights and pointsiettias, beckons diners when the weather permits.
The restaurant, six months in the making, is owned and operated by Lucia (Lucy) Azevedo Fincher a 20-year Healdsburg and lifelong Sonoma County resident. Married to caterer Tracy Fincher, they have two teenaged daughters attending Healdsburg public schools.
“Healdsburg has always been on my radar,” she said. “My father’s first job when he immigrated was in Healdsburg.” Read the family story here.
Fincher’s partner is her brother, executive chef Manuel Azevedo of well-respected La Salette in Sonoma. Azevedo is known for his “signature Cozinha Nova Portuguesa – ‘new Portuguese cuisine,’” according to his website.
Chef de cuisine Jason Santos is also Portuguese. He interned at LaSalette after graduating from the Culinary Institute. He’s passionate about Portuguese food.
1. When did Café Lucia open? December 5, 2012 in a quiet opening.
2. Location: 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Ste. 115 431-1113 Open daily at 11:30 for lunch and dinner
3. What was in the space before you? Affronti Restaurant.
4. Why Healdsburg? Because it’s my hometown. I always liked this space and when I found out it was available, the timing was perfect.
5. What is unique about your business? This business is locally owned by a woman. I am the face of the restaurant. Another unique aspect of the business is our extensive port list. This week we’ll be offering port flights along with our wine flights.
6. How did you get involved in the restaurant business? My first job was in a restaurant when I was 14. I did everything—from cashier to cook, prepping to busing. Then I worked in the legal field for a long time. I knew that I would someday return to the restaurant business. That someday arrive and I took the leap.
7. What do you love about it? The people—the interaction. I love the people. I have always worked with the public and they are just great.
8. What is the downside? The downside, of course, is the time commitment. It’s consuming time-wise. I have to be passionate about it. My husband and two daughters are very supportive of it and me.
9. What do you want people to know about you? I want people to know that this is my dream come true. I like to think that comes through when they walk through the door or they enter our lovely courtyard. And, contrary to supposition, we have a brand new full kitchen.
10. Do you own or are you involved in any other businesses? My husband, Tracy, owns Hot Rod Barbecue Catering.
Tasting notes: I knew nothing about Portuguese food but I was in for a treat—a selection of offerings of Portuguese specialties whipped up on the spot just for me.
When chef de cuisine Jason Santos presented the board with a flourish and described each dish, I was intimidated and I didn't know how to approach each offering.
There were three different fish tascas (tastings)—pate of sardines, boquerones (white anchovies) and smelts in escabeche. I approached the fish cautiously because I’ve never been too fond of it, and while I wasn’t enthralled by the strong flavor of the pate, I did enjoy the unique savoring of the other two fish dishes.
The queijo do São Jorge (cheese from the island of São Jorge) with quince marmalade was magnificent. The cheese was creamy and tart and combined perfectly with the quince. This “match made in heaven” was my favorite dish.
Another favored dish was the fried Sonoma goat cheese with fig marmalade. And the linguiça, tremoco-lupini beans and herb marinated olives are all tascas I will request at my next visit.
My tasting ended with the traditional obriga dinho “little thank you,” a sweet morsel of butter, cocoa and hazelnut that melts in the mouth.