When Tim and Demi Winter opened Luma just six months ago, they wanted to create a restaurant that was cozy and casual in an intimate neighborhood setting.
“We wouldn’t have opened a restaurant anywhere else,” says Demi about the riverfront warehouse district in downtown Petaluma. “It’s all about this particular location.”
The former city dwellers were attracted by the neighborhood’s industrial backdrop and use many of the products from nearby businesses on their menu, including cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, organic ice cream from Three Twins, coffee and tea roasted from Petaluma Coffee Company and port from Sonoma Valley Portworks. Even North Bay Iron Craft, located across the street, created the unique planters on wheels for the outdoor seating in front.
“It’s a small neighborhood but there’s a lot going on,” says Tim, a developer who bought the parcel 10 years ago and built the downstairs eatery.
Accommodating about 36 seats indoors, including a variety of small tables, two booths and nine stools at the beer and wine bar, Luma offers a seasonal lunch and dinner menu. Wine by the glass is served with a bar menu between 2:30-5:30 pm.
Demi calls the cuisine American Contemporary: simple and homey.
“The wood fired oven gives a taste you can’t replicate,” she says about the gourmet pizzas. The dough is created from living yeast brought from Naples. But much of the food is locally sourced, with fresh eggs and some produce from Tara Firma and Green String farms.
“It’s a terrible shame not to take advantage of our local bounty,” says executive chef Jen Solomon, who designed most of the menu at San Francisco restaurant AsiaSF for 10 years.
Asian influences continue to inspire their dishes, such as miso-glazed whitefish with jasmine rice or the Korean style barbequed chicken bahn mi (Vietnamese) sandwich.
“A lot of heart goes into the food,” says Solomon, who describes it as both exotic and comforting.
The first time I ate at Luma, coming from a class at Bodyworks Yoga around the corner, I had a bowl of their signature soup: tomato ginger bisque, which I highly recommend. My second venture included an equally tantalizing pear & blue pie–a pizza topped with blue cheese, shallots, roasted garlic and arugula. But it was the dessert, a deep chocolate pot de crème, with its velvety texture and rich flavor which was simply divine.
With other nearby businesses like Quilted Angel and Aqus Café drawing Petalumans to the neighborhood, Demi is proud to be part of this “burgeoning little gourmet ghetto.”
Though the couple worked in restaurants in their college years, ownership is a new venture.
“Running a restaurant is like having a child,” says Demi, who with Tim has three kids. “It’s always growing, it needs you all the time and you can’t take your eyes off of it.”
“And it’s the best choice you ever made,” adds their son, Peter, 19, who came home from college during the holidays and has been waiting tables at Luma ever since.
Tim, who has traveled all over the world, aims to create a place where people love to gather and eat together. When he designed the illuminated sign for Luma, he wanted it to have a flickering flame—a warm, inviting quality. The food, and everything else, follows.