Meet Mill Valley’s Newest Seafood Spot, Coho
Northern California’s fish-forward restaurants have a tendency to skew one of two ways — white tablecloths and water views or picnic tables and tacos. But things are different at Coho, Mill Valley’s newest hot spot, which takes over the downtown corner that used to house long-standing Italian go-to Vasco. There are no stiff table coverings in sight; instead, water glasses that look like clear Solo cups complete every place setting. It’s just a small touch, but one of many that remind you this isn’t a regular seafood spot. It’s a cool seafood spot.
“We wanted people to be able to come and have a fun city experience without actually having to go into the city,” explains Luigi Petrone, who co-owns and runs the restaurant with cousin Felicia Ferguson. It’s clear the two delivered: on a random rainy Wednesday night at 6 p.m., nearly every table is full.
Petrone and Ferguson aren’t exactly strangers to successful restaurants — it’s in their DNA. In the early ’80s, their fathers opened Mill Valley’s Piazza D’Angelo, which the two worked their way up to taking over in 2016. But for them, Coho is different. “Piazza is a well-oiled machine. It’s got a culture and a presence,” Petrone says. “Coho is our opportunity to build that from the ground up.”
Petrone and Ferguson’s primary vision for Coho was simple: to create a seasonally driven, seafood-centric restaurant. Sustainability was top of mind, too. Executive chef David Kornell sources as locally as possible from the best purveyors — but it’s more than that. “It’s how we can sustain as a business, too,” Ferguson says. “Practices we can put in place where people want to come into work and we can build a great, lasting team.”
That meant collaboration was key from the get-go. Petrone and Ferguson let Kornell do his thing when creating the menu. “He would put a dish in front of us and we’d talk about it. He’d put another dish in front of us, and we’d talk about it. That’s how we developed this really eclectic, flavorful menu,” says Petrone.
Oysters, crudo and squid share space with roe-topped pierogi and a pea shoot “salad” served still planted in soil — the kind of starters that spread like wildfire around a restaurant. As soon as one table has them, another party sees them and does the same.
It’s easy to get hung up on the long list of appetizers. Pick a few favorites, tack on the sourdough, plan for another visit and move on to the entrees. The lineup of larger plates is just as worthy. The Dungeness crab noodles, a seasonal dish, have emerged as an early crowd favorite, as have the black cod, glazed to spicy-sweet perfection, and the grilled trout. But if you happen to spot Petrone or Ferguson ordering from the menu, it’s the Donburi Bowl — an elevated salmon-topped version of the traditional Japanese rice dish — they’ll probably be asking for. “I think I have that for dinner three or four times a week,” Ferguson says with a laugh. “It’s so comforting.”
And when you’ve grown up in the restaurant business, it’s impossible not to imbue a level of comfort — of home — into all your projects. Yes, even a brand-new, city-cool seafood spot with Solo cup–inspired glassware.