Sometimes a restaurant just does everything right. At Alonso, located in a pretty 1861 Maison Bourgeoise in the town of Sorgues (not to be confused with L'Isle sur la Sorgue), the greeting is friendly, the service is impeccable, the prices are reasonable, the room is welcoming...and the food is truly outstanding. Owners Gérard and Josette Alonso are Lyonnais and had a highly regarded restaurant in Macon for 20 years. They’ve worked together in the restaurant business since 1976 and their vast experience shows in everything they do. They opened Alonso in 2008.
The formula here is simple: for one price at lunch, you get grignotage (best translation: nibbles), an amuse, starter, main course, cheese, dessert and mignardises. At dinner, you get the same, with an extra main course to boot. The breads are homemade and addictive, and on any given day, the cheese cart offers 30 to 40 different types. Except for dessert, however, there are usually no choices: Gérard markets each morning and crafts the daily-changing menu from the ingredients he finds most appealing. But if you have special dietary concerns, he'll happily accommodate you...and the vegetarian at our table was thrilled with what Gérard prepared. ''If a dish is not for you,'' their website says cheerfully, ''we can change it.'' Today's menu includes two starters: first, a lobster pressé and then a delicate line-caught bar (seabass, also known as loup) with fresh petits pois peas (currently at their seasonal peak). That's followed by a choice between sweetbreads or volaille de Bresse. Dessert is a degustation of three. Wine is, of course extra, as are coffees, cocktails, digestifs and bottled water. Lunch is 35€ and dinner is 50€.
It's all even more impressive when you realize that Gérard is doing everything himself: the breads, the desserts, the perfect tastes that come before your meal and the delectable little sweets that come after....not to mention the very-refined, impeccably presented, seasonal dishes that roll out in between.
Although he never worked with him, Gérard trained with--and remains heavily influenced by--the philosophy and cuisine of legendary Michelin three-star chef Alain Chapel, a forefather of nouvelle cuisine. (Chapel died in 1990, aged 53.)
My sommelier/wine guide friend Kelly McAuliffe takes clients to Alonso often and calls the wine list an oenophile's dream: fairly priced, rich in variety. ''It’s better than what you’ll find in many Michelin-starred restaurants,'' Kelly says, ''and their selection of local labels grows all the time. Gérard and Josette are very wine passionate and have relationships with some of the best winemakers in France. They’re also big on natural wines and organic/biodynamic producers as well.'' It's no surprise the restaurant is a winemaker hangout.
With only 30 or so indoor seats, Alonso's two dining rooms fill up fast, but a good six months a year everyone loves to dine outside anyway. If you're touring the Southern Rhone wine country around Châteauneuf-du-Pape (as we were, both times I went), or looking for a sensational meal not far from Avignon, this makes an ideal stop. There's really nothing not to love about Alonso.
Restaurant Gérard Alonso
Avenue du 19 Mars 1962
Sorgues (halfway between Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
GPS: Lat: 44.00767 Long.: 4.87230
Closed Sunday and Monday