Restaurant Review – March 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review March 2011

Like being in Tuscany…
Cantinetta Piero in the Hotel Luca in Yountville

By Dorothy and John Salmon

We had a delightful dinner at Cantinetta Piero in the Hotel Luca in Yountville with our good friends David and Donna Mendelsohn. It was the first visit for all of us to the Hotel Luca and Cantinetta Piero. For the locals, you might remember this location as the former Luigi’s Pizza, which has been replaced by the fantastic new hotel and restaurant.

As we walked into Cantinetta Piero through the hotel courtyard, it was as if Yountville’s Washington Street faded away and we were instantly transported to Tuscany. The hotel is small and lovely and feels like it was designed to replicate a romantic Tuscan getaway. It seems to succeed at that in all ways. As with most Yountville hotels, The Hotel Luca is not inexpensive, but it is beautifully appointed with old world charm with 200 year old tiles on the roof contrasting with interesting contemporary design. The Hotel Luca has a lovely pool, outdoor seating areas and a very Tuscan courtyard, complete with fountain and a magical ability to transport guests to Tuscany in a moment.

The hotel also offers fully furnished residences. If you can afford to stay for 30 days or more, you will live in style with a fireplace, radiant floor heating, a full kitchen, an enclosed balcony and a cozy and classy spa complete with a salt water lavender pool and a workout room. After our dinner at Cantinetta Piero, we wondered why anyone staying at the Hotel Luca for 30 days would ever choose to cook in their room!

Cantinetta Piero has about 75 seats and offers amazing Tuscan style food with friendly service in a lovely setting. We were greeted by Danielle Kuzinich, the Assistant Manager and Sommelier who was extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming. We immediately decided we liked this lovely place. The food is fresh, seasonal and regional and we all thought that it was the best Italian food we had eaten in a while. The room feels larger than it is because of its 15-foot vaulted brick ceiling, massive beams, large wine display, pizza bar with the essential wood-burning oven and an open kitchen with a salumi curing room.

We had dinner at Cantinetta Piero in the winter, but if you choose to dine in the late spring, summer or early fall, you can dine outdoors in a lovely area ringed by olive trees. You won’t want to miss either lunch or dinner. But, if you only have time for a cocktail or a glass of wine, you can do that too in their lovely cocktail bar area that serves wines from Italy and from local wineries.  This is the perfect place for a romantic dinner or to celebrate something special..

Cantinetta Piero has a world class chef in Executive Chef,, Jason Balestrieri, who began his career in Wisconsin and quickly moved to southern California, where he worked at Pinot Bistro, Twin Palms in Pasadena and Valencia, was executive chef at Pinot Hollywood and Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse in southern California before moving to Yountville to become the chef/partner at Cantinetta Luca. The night we dined at Piero, Daniele Kuzinich was the chef, and her talents are remarkable. Tom our waiter was lots of fun and very knowledgeable. The menu includes Antipasti’s, house made Pasta and Risotto, Soups and Salads, Pizzas, and Meat, Fish and Poultry Selections, along with the famous Salume Plate and killer Dolce desserts.

We began our evening with a bottle of 2008 Tenuta Sette Ponti, an amazing Sangiovese Merlot blend from Crognola, Italy ($78)  and their Salume Board, with spectacular house made Salume, including Finnochiona, Coppa, Red Wine Pistachio, Salume Cotto, Bresaola, Mortadella, Speck from Sudtirol, Italy and Prosciutto from San Daniele, Italy ($24). The Salume are hanging in a large case for everyone to admire. The house made breadsticks with sea salt made everyone comment that these were the BEST breadsticks any of us had ever had.

Danielle brought us the Alici in Salamoia white anchovy-eggplant caponata-saba and red wine vinaigrette ($12) that had a soft taste that was VERY unique. We ordered the Fritto Misto with fried calamari, sweet shrimp, fennel and lemon romesco sauce ($10) which was among the best Fritto Misto in the Valley.

Dave ordered the Funghi, seasonal wild mushrooms, melted onions, Fontina cheese and thyme ($16), Donna ordered the Brasato di Angnello Gambo, braised Sonoma lamb shank-crispy polenta and Tuscan kale ($28), John had the Pappardelle alla Bolognese, pork, beef and veal and porcini ragu ($17) and Dorothy enjoyed the Risotto del Giorno, a fabulous saffron risotto with parmesan cheese ($18). Both Donna and Dorothy ordered the Zuppa del Giorno, which was an amazing sweet potato soup ($8).

We completed our feast with the Gelato of the day, Vanilla, nutella (chocolate and hazelnut) and pumpkin ($6), and the Sorbetto of the day (pear, lemon and huckleberry) ($6) and the Chocolate budino, butterscotch and
maldon salt (INCREDIBLE).  You could go on and on with the Dolce selections of tarts, fromaggio, with choices of 4 selections ($16), five ($20) or six ($24). The cheeses are remarkable too, from Bufala Mozzarella to Truffled Tremor, Gorgonzola Dolce or Ubraico.

We waddled out of Cantinetta Piero singing its praises and remarking that our dinner was amazing. You can skip the flight to Tuscany and feel like you are there by just taking a short ride to Yountville.

CANTINETTA PIERO HOURS

Lunch: Friday, Saturday & Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m.; Friday & Saturday: 5:00p.m. to 10:00 p.m.www.hotellucanapa.com (707) 944-8080 6774 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

http://www.napavalleymarketplace.com

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