Mark Malicki of De Havilland is on a roll. Chef of the new Petaluma pop-up restaurant that appears at the Tea Room on weekend evenings, he is living his dream just about more than anyone.
“The owners of the Tea Room were at the [Casino] Bar, and they’re like, ‘Hey, would you ever consider doing something at the Tea Room?’” he recalled.
Malicki has a record of making great food in dishes attuned to the needs of the kitchen in which he’s working. At Casino Bar in Bodega, he remembered working with “just the two burners behind the stove.”
After more than 13 years of cooking in that kitchen, and now at the Tea Room, Malicki has many more tools for homey cross-cultural dishes.
“There’s two kitchens,” marveled Malicki. “There’s a bakery kitchen and a regular, like full-on kitchen with stoves and broilers and a refrigerator, all the normal things.”
While Malicki prepared only four or so dishes for the menu per night at the Casino Bar, in the new kitchen he is able to double that and more, with dishes he calls “opportunities.”
From the first contact with the host who takes orders at the counter in fast casual style to the server who brings and takes dishes with a smile and few words, the experience at De Havilland is one of unassuming service. The chef and staff opened this joint to serve good, welcoming food.
Dishes like the fried rice and oyster in broth aren’t always Instagrammable, but neither are my yiayia’s stuffed tomatoes, and they will heal the soul.
From potato rolls covered in hickory smoked sable butter to pineapple quince upside-down cake, the dishes are fun, familiar and new. For dessert, the cake was a clever new twist, which my partner approved of very much, while the butterscotch pudding was pitch-perfect to my taste—this coming from notoriously disgruntled eaters of sweets. So often, they let the meal down. Not here.
The hardiness of the delicata squash fried rice with black truffle egg might even convince someone that they are at a home away from home. It’s stick-to-the-guts food like Ma made, fuel for the day-to-day grind. And just like the platonic mom’s always open kitchen, De Havilland is a perfect place to sit together and be nourished by great ingredients prepared with love.
The Tea Room perfectly suits its new evening use, at least to this attentive customer’s eye.
“[It’s] a very manageable-sized space, 40 to 45 seats max,” said Malicki. “[If] we turn that dining room once a night, it’d be perfect.” Consider that a call, Petaluma; seats are waiting.
Only open for three weeks at the time of publication, De Havilland is already a way of life for Malicki.
“My menus are pretty much structured around me just driving to farms,” he said. “Pretty much the only thing that ever gets delivered to me is fish.”
Creating a new experience in a locally loved space is a dream opportunity in the Petaluma food scene, of which Malicki is a fan.
“I had a cheeseburger at Luma, which was really, really, really good,” he said. “I went back the next day and got another one.”
Unlike Sebastopol, where Malicki had lived until he recently moved to Petaluma, his adopted town “[feels] more like, where I grew up … more of a blue-collar town.”
Malicki and his staff can see Bill and Jay’s Garage across the street from the restaurant. With some love from the foodie community and a little luck, De Havilland can become another worthy local landmark like Bill and Jay’s and the Tea Room.
De Havilland is open every Thursday through Saturday at the Tea Room Cafe, 316 Western Ave., Petaluma. Counter service, blackboard menu, no reservations. Cash and Venmo only.