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First Bite: Postino’s Charm Endures

The Lafayette restaurant’s ambience heightens the senses.


photo by Hermine O. // yelp.com

With its bits of pistachio, sweet orange segments, bitter watercress, and sweet roasted heirloom carrots, my salad at Lafayette’s Postino restaurant was a colorful showstopper. By harmonizing those diverse elements with a pinch of toasted cumin, the composed salad evoked Morocco—as did the “tent” formed by the multi-hued gossamer fabrics flowing down from the dining room’s tall ceiling.

OK, maybe I’m romanticizing it a bit. But there’s something about this fairy-tale building—with its ivy-covered brick walls, meandering courtyard, copper-topped bar, fireplace alcove, and myriad other venues—that calls for regular rediscovery. I hadn’t dined here since 2014, yet I felt right at home after my first bite.

As the name connotes, Postino is an Italian restaurant, but chef Stewart Beatty’s whimsical yet precise presentations and subtle use of exotic spices are well suited to the space (which was formerly a post office). The dishes aren’t cheap; in choosing to add duck leg confit to my duck breast, my entree came in at $38. But the crackling-crisp skin and the mysterious aroma of star anise still linger.

I’ve been familiar with this restaurant for decades, since it was known as Tourelle, where I worked as a sous chef. I put in 60 hours a week, but from the viewpoint of the busy exhibition kitchen, I only tangentially appreciated the magical atmosphere. It wasn’t until my first quiet meal in the dining room—finding myself surprised at how each all-too-familiar dish exceeded my expectations—that I realized this restaurant’s ambience charms the senses.

This is not to take anything away from Beatty’s cooking; his food would taste good on a paper plate. But it’s a reminder that Postino is transportive and well worth visiting for special occasions.

3565 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-8700, postinorestaurant.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily.

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