Petaluma, Calif.

Stylish cafes and specialty shops help transform a sleepy Northern California town.

diners at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, Calif., image

A communal table at Della Fatoria ("from the farm" in Italian) makes for easy conversations.

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In 1973, the old-time brick, stone, and iron-front buildings of central Petaluma made the perfect small-town backdrop for George Lucas’s film American Graffiti. Thirty years later the downtown began taking on a new look as stylish cafés and specialty shops moved in, and the trend shows no sign of abating. The most recent addition is Theatre Square, a pedestrian plaza on Petaluma Boulevard at D Street with offices, stores, restaurants, and lofts. Area code is 707.

  • Lovers of baked goods flock to Della Fattoria for the Meyer lemon and rosemary bread, peanut butter sandwich cookies, and buttery pastries. On Fridays, this bakery and café hosts winetasting dinners. 141 Petaluma Blvd. N., 763-0161, www.dellafattoria.com.
  • The hand-printed note cards and stationery on sale at Dauphine Press are so charming—with their old letterpress feel and modern flair—they may just inspire you to swear off email.119 Kentucky St., 775-4200, www.dauphinepress.com.
  • Built as a library in 1906, the Petaluma Museum showcases egg-processing gear from the town’s glory days as "The Egg Basket of the World." 20 Fourth St., 778-4398, www.petalumamuseum.com. For a more intimate look at history, sign up with Heritage Homes of Petaluma for a December tour of the area’s most treasured Victorians and craftsmans. 762-3456, www.heritagepetaluma.com.
  • A onetime speakeasy now houses Vine & Barrel, a shop with hundreds of Sonoma wines, including more than 20 from Petaluma itself. Weekly tastings and classes. 143 Kentucky St., 765-1112, www.vineandbarrel.com.
  • Along with batik pillow covers, French soaps, and decoupage tea trays, the Magic Key sells paintings, beaded jewelry, and ceramic fruit made by local artists. Gift wrapping is free. 5 Fourth St., 765-3303.
  • Central Market's brick walls lend the restaurant a San Francisco look, but local ingredients give it a Sonoma soul, evident in such savories as house-made seafood boudin (a mild-flavored sausage). 42 Petaluma Blvd. N., 778-9900, www.centralmarketpetaluma.com.
  • Feast your senses on Haus Fortuna’s vast selection of splashy Deruta and Orvieto tableware—from salt shakers to serving bowls—alongside Perugina chocolates, Modena balsamico, Murano glass jewelry, and other Italian delights. 111 Second St., 283-0166, www.hausfortuna.com.

Photography by Sean Arbabi

This article was first published in November 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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