Eating Napa Valley

Okay, I am a little heartbroken because my favorite restaurant in Napa is closed. Yes, Tra Vigne, I am talking to you! (It’s now something else and no, I haven’t been there. I’m a little bitter but whatever.) Moving on.

Sure you could go to French Laundry but I can only afford to eat there once in a lifetime. At $125+ per plate, I am treating no one to dinner. I know foodies will argue it is worth every penny, but I still have to pay the water bill. There are other delicious places to go.

Bistro Don Giovanni
Bistro Don Giovanni is a fun, busy little Italian inspired kitchen. They use sustainably-farmed, seasonal produce and organic meats. The bake their own traditional, focaccia and ciabatta breads. They hand-make their own fresh semolina and egg pastas. This joint is hoppin’.

You won’t go wrong with anything on their menu but you have to try the risotto with wild mushrooms, porcini, ham, and Parmigiano. Oh! Or what about their Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop with some of the best mashed potatoes you will ever stick in your mouth! Our lamb eater said the Slow Braised Lamb Shank gave the pork chop a run for its money. I couldn’t decide so I threw down the Ravioli di Zucca as my “best dish” challenger.  I mean c’mon, pumpkin and almond cookie crumb filled pasta sage-brown butter, Parmigiano Reggiano! My mouth waters and my eyes roll back just recalling the tasty little pasta packets.

But if that is not enough, Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding, made with 12-year old scotch will slide you right into a comfy food coma, but SO WORTH IT.

Our 7 out of 7 eaters said, “Eat here!” You’ll see why it made Lea’s List of Deliciousness.

4110 Howard Ln, Napa, CA 94558 |(707) 224-3300 |

Eikos at Oxbow Market
Eikos was voted the best sushi restaurant in the Napa Valley, two years in a row by Napa Valley Life Magazine. Eikos at Oxbow Market is the second location for Eikos. It is a full-service seafood market and sushi bar. They have a sushi bar, take out or a grab-and-go deli. They also offer Japanese beer and sake. They use seasonal, fresh sustainable fish and ingredients delivered daily from the local markets. It might be small but oh my, my, how delicious they are. If you are into the classics or nigiri and sashimi, Eikos is a winner. They even have poki bowls. It’s hard to recommend one thing, we tried so many sushi rolls.

My colleagues are voracious sushi eaters. Some people can drink others under the table, my little “gang” can throw down when it comes to sushi.  We ordered the following: Maguro (Tuna), Tai (Red Snapper), Ebi (Shrimp), Unagi (Fresh Water Eel), Tako (Octopus), California Roll, Spider Roll, Poki Roll, NegiHama, Super California, Eiko Roll, Rainbow, Napa Valley, Neko Chan, Lion Roll, and the Viva Las Vegas. Yeah, we ate that! It was all good but if I had room, I could have gone another round with the Lion Roll. For the record, I was NOT hungry an hour later.

For delectable sushi in a super casual setting, Eikos at Oxbow Market is worth a taste. 6 out of 6 happy sushi eaters insisted this made my List.

610 1st St #3, Napa, CA 94559 | (707) 515-7026 |

Kitchen Door

If you are wanting to go back to Oxbow Market, consider the Kitchen Door. It is Casual, and I hate to say it, it’s kinda hip with its open kitchen concept. I would say the over-all menu is seasonal American comfort food. From the moment you open the door, you are lured in by the wood-fired rotisserie and oven.  Chef Todd Humphries is the “big cheese” of this restaurant and he prides himself on his”forager’s eye”. I am a huge mushroom fan and Chef Humphries has stocked his kitchen with loads of local and sourced mushrooms.  Did I mention mushrooms are my jam? I LOVE mushrooms.  If you are also a mushroom connoisseur, start off with the cream of mushroom soup. If you are a glutton for punishment like I am, follow it up with the mushroom pasta, Gemelli, parmesan cream, sage. Yum!

One of our diners very much appreciated the Kobe burger with “wine stewed onions”, saying it was among the best he had ever had. Want chicken instead?  His wood-fired chicken wings with their teriyaki glaze will make your mouth water. If you are feeling kinda fancy, order the Seared Nantucket Bay Scallops, bacon & pumpkin fried rice, Thai coconut curry. I know! Right? We recommend you top off the whole shebang with a rootbeer float. It was tasty and nostalgic.

Our group of 9 unanimously voted the Kitchen Door should make Lea’s List of Deliciousness.

610 1st St #24, Napa, CA 94559 | (707) 226-1560 |

Rustic at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Okay, this restaurant is a bit of a drive, but if you are going wine tasting put it on your list of places to visit. It is at the far north end of Napa Valley, so make a day of it.  It’s  a funky winery with lovely grounds, a swimming pool, bocce courts, entertainment pavilion, and movie museum.

But I am here to talk about the food. Tucked into Sonoma, the winery houses the eclectic and casual restaurant, Rustic. Rustic offers international, traditional Italian and family-style dishes. Most of the fresh ingredients are sourced from the winery’s organic herb and produce gardens.  You can’t help but notice the parrilla (an authentic Argentine grill)  in the dining room, providing South American style wood-grilled meats. The roomy outdoor terrace overlooks the picturesque Alexander Valley.

Just as the restaurant name implies, this is no fancy high-brow eatery.  However, you can get everything from Marrakesh lamb to chicken mattone to pizza and burgers. I recommend you start with the fresh mozzarella with pettole. Oh, Jiminy Christmas it will rock your socks. With sixteen people at our table,  I’d say we gave the menu a fair work out. We were also able to sit on the terrace on a glorious fall day and all at one table.Here is what we ate; There were a half-dozen burger eaters who personalized their burgers with various selections of cheeses. They mowed through their burgers and zucchini fries without sharing a bite. Greedy buggers.

The four Pizza Quattro Formaggio eaters “mmmm-ed” through their gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella and taleggio pie. There were no left-overs for a “to-go” box.

Two concurred that the “Habit Forming Ribs” were indeed, habit-forming as they licked the sweet and savory sauce from their fingers.

I had the Moroccan Bastilla because I am a sucker for good ethnic food.  I was not disappointed in this chicken and eggy pie with its touch of sweetness and the savory goodness of cinnamon.

There was one order of L’ami Louis Gateau de Pommes. It’s a golden brown potato cake cooked in goose fat. Potato lovers will think they have died and gone to heaven! That was my second choice.

Our pasta eaters had the Penne Alla Puttanesca slathered with olives, capers, & garlic and a basil-y Spaghetti Al Pomodoro. Again, with nary a left-over.

Because everyone was so greedy with their entree, we can say we did not take the dessert menu for a spin.

The menu is not huge, and the entrees are priced anywhere from $13-$95. I was a little surprised that 16 out of 16 voted that it should make The List, but you just can’t argue with clean plates…even from the ladies! The service was exceptionally good-humored and on point.

300 Via Archimedes Geyserville, CA 95441 |707-857-1400 |

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