Restaurant Review – April 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review April 2010

Uva Trattoria and Bar
Smooth Jazz and Great Italian Food in Downtown Napa
By Dorothy and John Salmon

We were joined on a recent evening by our pal Andrea Schrader for a wonderful dinner at Uva Trattoria and Bar. We recommend Uva for lunch or dinner anytime.  It’s the perfect place to take your best friend, your sweetheart or the kids and in-laws for lunch or dinner.

For we locals, our favorite game at Uva is “Can you name the celebrities from the late 1800’s to the 1990’s in the more than 700 photos on the walls?” At Uva you can enjoy authentic Italian food and interesting wines while sitting next to a 1920’s photo of Rudolph Valentino; the 1946 San Francisco 49rs (were they winning then?); a 1920’s class photo of Napa High School’s Senior Class; the young and beautiful 1950 version of Sophia Loren; and a photo of Perry Como and Dean Martin lovingly given to Uva from Perry Como’s son who lives in Napa. Where else can you do that? Uva has it all!

Their wine list is typically 70% local Napa Valley wines and 30% Italian wines that Aaron Diaz, Uva’s owner, discovers on one of his many trips to Italy. Aaron has maintained Uva’s reasonable price points, continued the great jazz music and offers a wonderful warm setting with one of Napa’s best bartenders! If you want to bring your own wine, there is no corkage! Now… that’s a good deal. Uva features Italian comfort food, prepared with the freshest ingredients, and weekly specials based on local, seasonal, organically farmed produce. The three dining rooms and large bar area allow Uva to accommodate parties both large and small.

Aaron Diaz purchased Uva in April, 2009 from Sean Pramuk and Giovanni Guerro, who grew up in Napa and had worked hard for seven years to build Uva into a great success. As its new owner, Aaron intends to stay with the winning formula for many years to come. Aaron is also a local who began his restaurant career at Scalas, formerly Piatti’s in Yountville, and Bistro Don Giovanni’s. He was the general manager at Cuvee for two years, while spending time at Angele helping out when needed. Then, it happened.  Sean and Giovanni decided that it was time to sell the business and Aaron was in the right place at the right time.

Aaron travels to different areas of Italy each year to educate himself about the origin and variations of Italian food in each region. He comes back with new recipes to try, but has maintained 70% of the prior owner’s menu offerings and only changes the other 30% to add new selections brought back from where the real Italian food is made.

Five nights a week Uva features great jazz with NO COVER CHARGE and, yes, they are open on Monday’s. For you theater goers, Uva features a late night menu on weekends till 11:30 p.m. If you are going to the late show and want to stop by for some great jazz, a drink at the bar or a late supper, Uva is your place with reduced price menu’s featuring half portions in case you had too much popcorn at the movies. Uva’s bartenders are some of the best in the Valley and are locals. Pete Guerrdy, from St. Helena, was Bouchon’s bar manger when they first opened and then went on to open two Ritz Carlton’s on the east coast. Kurt Bakken, also from Napa , was the original bar manager at Brix and former proprietor of Sakitini.  Mike Pramuk has been at Uva for five years and Gabby Seran has been with Uva for six years. These guys really know how to run a bar!

Aaron was in when we arrived at Uva.  He pleasantly surprised us with a sampling of Arancini (pesto risotto balls filled with Teleme cheese, breaded and fried , and served with a spicy marinara sauce … they are amazing  ( $8) and Pizza Milanese (a white pizza made with smoked prosciutto, Fontina, Mozzarella, asparagus and topped off with a friend egg … that is equally good. ($15).

To wet our palate, Aaron recommended a bottle of Quorum from Italy. Quorum is part of the Folio group of wines from the Piedmonte region of Italy. It is an excellent barbera that comes with a great community story.  Five of Asti’s GREAT Barbera producers, Braida, Chiarlo, Coppo, Prunotto, and Vietti and its leading grappa producer, Berta, each donate one hectare of grapes each year from their top producing single vineyard estates. The group then designates a winemaker outside of their group to make the wine. The most important part of the story is the all of the proceeds go to support charitable causes in the Piedmonte region communities, such as cancer research and support for the Italian viticulture school. That is how you can enjoy the wine and help others!

Even though we were getting full from the Arancini and the Pizza Milanese, we forged on with our mission to review the dinner. John ordered the Isalata di Cesare, a traditional Caesar salad with house made crostini and Parmesan ($9) or you can have thesmaller salad ($6.75), followed by the Rigatoni alla Bolognese ($15.25).  The Rigatoni alla Bolognese is served with traditional Italian meat ragu. The ladies skipped the salad and Andrea enjoyed the Fettuccine Pollo e Fungi (pasta filled with grilled chicken and mushroom-cream sauce ($16) and Dorothy ordered the Pesce ($30) Lobster tail over cioppino soup, salmon, prawns, clams, scallops in an incredible marinara sauce.

Everything served was delicious and we enjoyed some time talking with Aaron about his Napa Valley restaurant career, his own restaurant, his hopes for Uva’s future and life in general. We are blessed with many amazing friends in our life and Andrea is definitely one of them. We ended our time at the table playing “Who’s that?” It may be a sign of the length of our time on the planet that we got a lot of the photos right!

If you are looking for authentic Italian food such as Spaghetti Carbonara, Linguini Melanzane, Linguine alle Vongole and Cannelloni con Gamberi in a warm wonderful setting right off Main Street with parking across the street, then Uva Trattoria is the place for you.  Uva is also perfect for big parties and can seat 125 people.

Uva is located at 1040 Clinton Street at Brown  in Napa (707) 255.6646  and is open Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.


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