Maria Belmonte was born in Bonito, Italy where, as a young girl, she learned to cook at her mother’s and grandmother’s sides. Her soulful, home style Italian cooking won her legions of fans and rave reviews as the executive chef at Caffe Portofino in Santa Rosa which the Belmonte family owned prior to opening VJB Vineyards and Cellars. Today, Maria is the guiding force in La Cucina and the Red Rooster Kitchen. She also hosts cooking classes with her son, Henry, in the outdoor kitchen and caters numerous winery functions, both large and small. From her fresh baked focaccia to an outstanding array of freshly made antipasto salads to her homemade biscotti, Maria’s food is simple, delicious and heartfelt.
With three kinds of tomato sauce and four pestos, Maria’s recipes are ideal for busy cooks who want homemade flavor but don’t always have the time to spare.See all her Sauces
For owner Henry Belmonte, cooking is a very personal endeavor. Although he grew up helping out in the family’s Kenwood deli and later at their very popular restaurant in Santa Rosa where his mom was the chef, his focus was always on the front of the house, not the kitchen. After his brother and best friend, Victor, passed away, Henry turned to the kitchen as a place of healing. Cooking for and entertaining friends and family became his passion. He describes his cooking style as “rustic” with a focus on flavor and creativity. Although the winery keeps Henry incredibly busy, he still enjoys hosting long, relaxing dinners where he might serve one of his many specialties including cioppino, risotto, or racks of succulent, slow roasted ribs.