By JEFF COX
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It's not exactly clear why Speakeasy restaurant in downtown Petaluma was given that name, but it may be because the restaurant is open nightly until 2 a.m.
Petaluma has what was once an actual speakeasy, tucked in the back of Volpi's Italian restaurant on Washington Street. It's preserved pretty much the way it looked during Prohibition, when the big butter and egg men and women came in to toss back a few. And like any honest speakeasy, it had a door leading to the alley out back, so that when the cops staged a raid, the townspeople could skedaddle.
The motto of today's Speakeasy restaurant, located on Putnam Plaza where Thai Ginger Bistro used to be, is "Live Fast. Eat Late. Speak Easy." The decorations run to photographs of folks from the late Victorian era, although Prohibition is pretty much a product of the 1920s, and the walls are painted to resemble cinder blocks. An outdoor patio has additional seating. The tables are bare until your food arrives along with paper napkin and utensils. Service is quick and friendly. Music on the sound system is as eclectic as the food.
The place has only a beer and wine license, so there's no genuine hooch. But there is a short list of 10 red wines and three whites, plus a Kenwood Cuvee Brut for $8. All the wines are offered by the glass. Six of the reds and two of the whites are from the Hook & Ladder winery, so there's not a lot of choice.
The chef is Dindo Borja, a native of Guam. That island is a United States territory and the southernmost of the Mariana Islands in Micronesia. Given Guam's position between Asia, New Guinea, Australia, and Polynesia, its colonial influence from Spain and residual culinary influence from Japan (a difficult time during WWII until the island was liberated by American soldiers in 1944), plus American influence since then, it's no wonder Chef Borja's cooking is eclectic.
The menu is broken down into four soups and salads, three appetizers, five "hand helds," seven small plates, and three desserts. The chef will make portions that are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free for customers so inclined.