Forget the January cleanse. There’s no better kind of travel than the kind that involves delving belly-first into a local food and drinks scene, especially when that scene is the Napa Valley. And in winter, the valley is relatively quiet, the reservations easier to secure. So go; you can always take a gastronomic break in summer.
Open for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Ca’ Momi started out at the Oxbow Public Market nearby and still maintains its Enoteca there. But the downtown-based Osteria was always the long-term plan, a place to showcase authentic pizza Napoletana, made with strict adherence to Vera Pizza Napoletana guidelines: cooked 90 seconds in a 900-degree oven. (The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana governs these rules to protect the tradition methods of Neopolitan pizza.) Owners Dario De Conti and Valentina Guolo-Migotto were both raised in Veneto; De Conti is a certified Vera Pizza Napoletana and Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani pizzaiolo, a rare distinction. Another owner, Stefano Migotto, is from Abano Terme (also in Veneto) and was raised in his family winery. He and De Conti make the Ca’ Momi wines, made from Napa Valley grapes, which includes a Ca’ Secco, Ca’ Rosa, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel, as well as dessert wine and other blends.
Napa is not known as a late-night town, but places like Cadet are changing that. By offering a cozy, cool space open weeknights until midnight and weekends until 1:30 a.m., it is absolutely a locals’ joint, where you’re as likely to bump into winemakers as the throngs who love their wines. An eclectic and inspired list of wine, cider and beer is complemented by a menu of provisions along the lines of chip and dip, grilled cheese, salumi, prosciutto, cheese and the like. Guest bartender nights feature area wineries, while other nights feature fun imports. Every Monday is industry night with drink specials and a BYOV (“bring your own vinyl”) theme. The record player and shelves full of vinyl are always at the ready.
The once historic Inglenook Winery in Rutherford, which spent many of the last decades as Francis Ford Coppola, has returned to its roots thanks to the famous vintner/director. With the aim of making just a few wines on site and bringing renewed attention on the beautiful propert, winemaker Philippe Bascaules, a Bordeaux-trained traditionalist, has brought a sense of restraint and elegance to Inglenook’s wines, his main goal to make wines that refresh with food. These include the iconic bottles like Rubicon, Cask and Blancaneaux, but it’s also worth stopping in to try the bites being made by Executive Chef Alex Lovick, who takes a similar approach to his food, featured both at the on-site Bistro, open daily at 10 a.m. and in sit-down tastings. Recent nibbles included almonds and cashews roasted over lemon verbena branches swathed in herbs.
Within the former three-floor site of The Thomas Restaurant and its well-loved bar, Fagiani’s, Ninebark is the renewed vision of Chef Matthew Lightner, whose early cooking career included time at L’Auberge Del Mar. He went on to Noma in Copenhagen and Castagna in Portland, Oregon, where he was nominated as a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef. He earned more acclaim and followers after opening his own restaurant, Atera, in New York City, which received two Michelin stars. Now, he has the chance to work with local-grown ingredients and shine in a different location. Skewers are a fun section of the menu, like the smoked foie gras with seasonal shelling beans in broth and fermented truffle. In addition to Tuesday through Sunday dinner, a bar menu is available Tuesday through Friday beginning at 4 p.m., with weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Chef/owner Richard Reddington’s consistent all-star celebrated its 10th anniversary late last year, a significant feat in the always changing and fickle food scene that is the Bay Area. Yes, he focuses on seasonal and local-ingredient-driven cuisine, of course, but there’s so much more going on, from inspired takes on sashimi and pork belly to finding a way to make such a classic dish as petrale sole exciting again. On top of that, Redd’s food truly takes the enjoyment of wine into account, not a feature of every chef’s vision. If in the Napa Valley, Redd is a must. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, with a welcoming bar for solo or more casual dining.