Santi closed?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

UPDATE: A phone message from a man claiming to be owner Doug Swett confirmed that the restaurant was shuttered. BiteClub has still not been able to reach Swett or Chef Richey for details about the closure.


News that Santi restaurant in Fountaingrove has closed is rippling through the food community.

Though the details remain sketchy a sign on the window states that the restaurant is closed due to a fire. But insiders say the staff was let go on Tuesday and many in the restaurant biz knew that the restaurant had been on COD (cash on delivery) status with at least some of its purveyors for several months. Money troubles are suspected.

It’s unfortunate, because the restaurant flourished in Geyserville for more than 10 years, but in 2010 when the restaurant relocated it faced some serious hurdles — a held up liquor license, then a parking lot hubub with disgruntled Fountain Grove neighbors and finally, early this year, the departure of longtime executive chef, Liz Hinman. Hinman’s successor, Doug Richey, took over this year. The young and talented chef has plenty to offer, and will hopefully reappear elsewhere soon.


Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. The restaurant is officially closed so I’m guessing you are out of luck. Usually there isnt much recourse

  2. What about the gift certificate we bought for my In Laws?! I’m not going to be happy if this gift was for not and my money was wasted.

  3. Fountaingrove has no sense of community, therefore no sense of loyalty to frequent or patronize a business.

    They have a good sense of their property values and their own ‘generous contributions to society’….they are Nimbys just the same, as local politics have proven. You can’t try to wall off and exclusive-tize an area and then expect to make it a destination spot.

    That’s the sound of Nagasawa, the last honorable man on that hill, turning in his grave.

  4. You don’t want to hear it, but I keep telling you that Fountaingrove is a place of bad karma. People who move there get divorces; successful restaurants fail when they move there; homeowners reject fire stations in their neighborhood…bad karma all around. Stay away!

  5. For the record, the Catelli family owns the Geyserville building and Sante was basically tossed out into the street at their mercy when the lease was up. That said, they should have seen it coming. Remember when the original Catelli’s (not owned by “the” family”) moved to Healdsburg. Short memories…. This is really too bad, and maybe the old saying location, location, location is still true…..

  6. Was never at Geyerserville location but the Fountain Grove one was really overpriced and mediocre as far as we were concerned. Not a good location either. I am suprised Traverso’s is making it. So out of the way. Scary road that Fountain Grove Parkway.

  7. The problem with keeping a restaurant open in Sonoma County is the not only huge rents, but also how businesses get nickel and dimed by both the county and the cities. I had a business in Santa Rosa, but sold because it seemed like every day I was getting a new bill for something like wastewater or bond measures that cut into business profits. Restaurants must buy their food, then sell it for a profit. That margin is usually around 50 percent. That 50 percent margin has to pay rent, utilities, future inventory, employee salaries from which another ten percent of their pay goes to unemployment, Sonoma County has fallen victim to inflated property values which require inflated rents.

    Since there are so few restaurants that exist within walking distance to their clientele, they don’t have the benefit of having constant food traffic. Almost all of the restaurants of mention that have opened up in areas that require patrons to drive to them have closed. Downtown SR has a very small population that live in the immediate proximity to local places. In return, it’s hard for a restaurant to keep quality high without having to have an expensive menu that don’t cater to those that eat out daily.

    However, with that said, I was once overheard a well known chef in Santa Rosa say a few years ago that the palate of Sonoma County doesn’t cater to gourmet food. Beans and rice will continue to rule the day because they are cheap and once stuffed in a tortilla, people will pay big money for low quality as long as the portion is large. If these restaurants wioudl just stick to western standards and do it well, they would do much better. But that won’t happen becaue the palate in Sonoma county must be tricked into recognizing good well priced food.

  8. I think the general consensus is that Doug is very talented. I have heard he’s making the rounds and I hope that he’ll land somewhere local.

    Again, it seemed to me that whatever happened was pretty well beyond anything Doug could do.

  9. I actually agree with vai….I had been to Santi a couple of times and not been overly impressed. Then I went back early in the year after Doug had taken over and was blown away at the improvement. Was looking forward to returning until I read this! What a shame….hopefully Doug will resurface soon, whatever he was doing was great!

  10. I share VAI’s opinion that it seemed like they had finally gotten focus. Our meal two weeks ago was superb. Appreciated that pizza made it to the dinner menu–great appetizer (and leftovers.)

    Is the Stagecoach site becoming a ghost town? never saw anything in print online or otherwise about the demise of Centro Espresso–another gem that we have now lost.

    And Traverso’s cut back their hours so harder to stop by after work.

  11. Should have stayed with us in Geyserville….this town rocks now!

  12. My comment is about “people being so freaking nit-picky about food and service” and is in no way directed at Santi. Customer’s should expect and demand a “reasonable level of service” and ” flavorful, well prepared food”. We do have quite a few fine restaurants in Sonoma County. We have our share of bad ones as well. Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Napa, Los Angeles, San Diego all have fine restaurants. Fine restaurants should expect and attract discriminating customers.

  13. Sorry–I meant “whatever you were doing in April/May 2011 was working” !!

  14. Ate there a couple of times within the first year it opened; unimpressed with food, service, value. Ate there 2-3 weeks ago, knowing it had a new chef. Really liked food and service; was looking forward to coming back. Note to the folks involved: whatever you were doing in April/May 2010 ago was working (imho) but I wouldn’t be surprised if the original food/service/value scared off too many folks.

  15. Stating that those of us that complained about the food quality & service declining should appreciate mediocrity is ludicrous!!! You forget that , we, the customer spend our hard earned money expecting
    our money’s worth. THERE ARE GREAT restaurants in Sonoma County and there is room for more.
    We vote with our feet and pocketbooks. I spent a lot of years working in the restaurant business and
    I am critical but also understanding. I look at the totality of the situation and base my opinions on what
    the norm is. SANTI could not cut it. There were outside problems, but if one is willing to seek good counsel and work with the community, one will end up prospering.

  16. We’ll miss Sean!! We always ate at the bar, in both locations, and he was the best. Heather, if you find out his whereabouts, please let us know.

  17. I think it’s easy to simplify the situation — which admittedly is still developing — but harder to see the shades of grey. I have not reached the owner, Doug Swett and the building owner is not discussing the situation publicly.

    I can talk about my impressions. I spoke at length with the new chef, Doug Richey a few months ago, and never published the interview. He’s a super talented young chef who has been in the kitchens of Santi for a long time, but it seemed like the poor guy was killing himself trying to make people happy or find a magic solution to the compounding problems the restaurant seemed to be facing. He’s well-respected in the chef community, and I definintely don’t think its fair to put the slipping food issues entirely on his shoulders.

    What I’ve gleaned is that the move to Santa Rosa was expensive. They were one of the only games in town in Geyserville, unlike Santa Rosa. Chef Dino Bugica was a rock star (he’s now at Diavola), and Liz did a great job after him, but it felt a little like the heart went out of the restaurant when they arrived in SR. There were different expectations in SR. The foodies wanted the old Santi, but there were pressures to have more everyday Italian (pizza, spaghetti), which was never really part of the old Santi.

    The neighborhood parking issues didn’t engender a strong initial relationship with the Fountaingrove audience that should have been its best regular customers.

    Who knows what will come of the situation. It’s not finalized, and its not fair to completely write an obituary until we have more news, despite what I’m hearing from very reliable sources. In any case, I wish the best to Doug Swett, Doug Richey and all the staff. It’s sad to lose a restaurant that was for so long a Sonoma County institution.

  18. Roadwinder, don’t you mean “Varuca Salt” syndrome? :)

  19. Amen!

  20. I have checked the prices and looked at Yelp reviews and the menu. Probably wouldn’t come here, just another overpriced Santa Rosa restaurant.

    If the landlords are charging such high rent then why would you move in????

  21. I agree with what you say about this attitude of sense of over-expecting and what I call the “oompa loompa sydrome” of I want it NOW. But I do have to disagree with you about the food and service–if I am being honest, it has slipped. It just has…it used to be really wonderful food and the service was personable. The last 2 times I was there the food was not on par, and the service seemed sparse and disconnected. It was not unfriendly, but not friendly either…just so-so. Charging those prices your service can’t be so-so, especially when it was better before. I will miss this place and what it was…it was a great spot to go and enjoy the summer evening outside with some wine and good food. I hope a great place opens up and can really nail down the food, service, and deliver without breaking the pocketbook. Best luck to all who worked at Santi.

  22. Im so over people being so freaking nit-picky about food and service….Go live in every other county and you should be SOOOOO proud of our restaurants. We have beyond exceptional service, so much that now we nit-pick that we werent seated in the first 2 seconds, blah blah blah….QUIT YOUR MOANING! We will lose every great restaurant, the servers will get sick of serving your OVER EXPECTING ATTITUDE….Santi didn’t slide, their food was on-par, their service was outstanding, even if it was soft-spoken at time. They closed because money greedy landlords….expected a HIGH rated restaurant to pay top dollar. Nobody is cutting anybody a break, we are working hard and they DO respect the money you spend at their restaurants. YOU won’t let anything GOOD be installed because you will go ONCE and complain to everyone that your ice tea had too little ice or your napkin wasnt folded properly. Get real people and start respecting and just enjoying, and celebrating the amazing food we work hard to provide!

  23. Franco Dunn, the original owner, is still at the market with his sausages. He sold the restaurant several years ago.

  24. Hope we can still get their sausages at the Farmer’s Market! Sad to hear they closed though when we went to the Santa Rosa location a couple of months after they opened, the food was so-so, they got our order wrong, and it was very noisy.

  25. No surprise at all! Overpriced, mediocre food and atrocious (and weird) service. Actually glad to see it go in the hopes that something good will be installed.

  26. If this is true, it’s a sad day. They were wonderful in Geyserville and it was sad when they left that location. Catelli’s is nowhere near the level that Santi was prior to the move. I have to say that I haven’t been to the new location as it isn’t very convenient for those of us that live close to the Geyserville location.

  27. This is not a surprise to a lot of us. The food and service have slid.

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