Restaurant Review – May 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review May 2010

Bistro Don Giovanni
By Dorothy and John Salmon

John and I love Bistro Don Giovanni and we are not alone. Bistro Don Giovanni is one of the Napa Valley’s most well known and beloved Italian restaurants. On the evening we dined there, we first passed the table of Congressman Mike Thompson and his wife Jan, who were enjoying their dinner in one of the best restaurants in California’s First Congressional District. As we approached our table, we saw that we were going to be seated next to the table of County Supervisor Bill Dodd, his wife Mary and their family. Without this being a political comment, these are folks who we are delighted to know and whose work for the community we greatly appreciate.

We locals get to see each other all of the time at Bistro Don Giovanni because it is upbeat, fun, in the vineyards and a very “Napa” Italian restaurant with consistently great food in an exciting atmosphere. You turn off Hwy. 29 on to Howard Lane, which was named a few years ago by Mayor Ed Henderson and the Napa City Council to honor Howard Lane, the Napa Valley’s beloved, legendary and best known maitre d’ who passed away in 2009.   As you drive into the parking lot you immediately feel a sense of wellbeing as you are surrounded by vineyards. As you leave your car, you walk up the steps past a warm, outdoor, covered terrace, the lovely garden and the jovial fountains and artwork.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, Bistro Don Giovanni is alive and the outdoor terrace is in full swing with a blazing fireplace making the area cozy. In the winter, guests can feel the warmth of summer with outdoor heaters fired up. If you are visiting the Napa Valley, Bistro Don Giovanni offers spectacular views to go with the  great food and wine. If you are  fortunate to live in the Valley, it offers one more reason to be grateful. Bistro Don Giovanni serves really great pizzas, grilled meats, chicken and fish from their wood oven, and terrific pasta and risotto from the kitchen. Owner, Donna Scala, is typically there to greet guests, and executive chef Scott Warner can be seen through the window-like entrance to the kitchen. This night we were greeted by Neno Giovani, one of the Bistro Don Giovanni managers who also took care of our orders and made the evening even better with his big smile.

Bistro Don Giovanni has a great wine list, several beers, four varieties of water and interesting specialty drinks like their Grapefruit Martini made with Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit and vodka ($9.50) or the Bistro Lemon Drop made with their own garden lemons, Svedka Vodka and Chambord ($9.00)

David Drinkwater from Wingspan Partnerships joined us for dinner. Since we all work too hard, we decided to treat ourselves by jumping into Bistro Don Giovanni’s 29 for 29 on 29. This is a clever idea. The list contains 29 wines, each for $29 and, of course, the restaurant is on Hwy. 29! These are very good wines for excellent prices and the list changes often. To honor our friends George and Elsa Vare, who sometimes join us for these reviews, we ordered a bottle of Luna Vineyard’s 2007 “Freakout.” It was terrific.

With the wine, we had our favorite Antipasti Misti with salame, Mortadella, Provolone, Olives, Pickled mushrooms and garlic toast ($16.00) and John’s newest favorite, Bistro Don Giovanni’s fried olives ($9.00). If you have never had the olives, be sure to try them the next time you dine there. As usual, the upbeat atmosphere made for a lively conversation and an opportunity to say hello to our friends, the Dodd’s, who were dining next to us. In fact, we even got a chance to help them out by taking a family picture for them.

David and Dorothy ordered the Beet and Haricot Verts with avocado-fennel salad and Roquefort vinaigrette ($11.00). John had his usual Caesar salad ($10.00). Perhaps someday John will try something new! For dinner, David ordered the Silk Handkerchiefs made with Gorgonzola, Dolce Sauce, black pepper and walnuts ($15.00) and he enjoyed every bite. Dorothy ordered the Linguine Frutti di Mare with clams, mussles, calamari, tomato, garlic and chilies ($23.00) and John ordered the Seared Filet of Salmon with buttermilk mashed potatoes, tomato-chive butter sauce ($25.00). Everything was perfect!

Bistro Don Giovanni serves dessert wines and liqueurs, lovely ports, grappa’s, Armagnac, cognac, calvados and has a full bar with bourbon, other whiskies and scotch. We forgot to mention that John had a Dewars White Label ($9.50), when we first sat dowxn.

All Desserts are fabulous at $7.00. Since we were doing a review, we felt obliged to try one Gelato e Sorbetto house made ice cream to share. It was a perfect end to a great evening. Napa is blessed to have so many great restaurants, some new and some that have been around for a long time. Bistro Don Giovanni has been open for a while but it is still a place that you should not miss to relax with friends and family and enjoy one of the reasons why we are so blessed to live here!

Bistro Don Giovanni is located right off Highway 29 at 4110 Howard Lane in Napa. For reservations call (707) 224-3300. They are open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They accept all major credit cards and are the friendliest people in town.

Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad with Haricots Verts and Avocado Roquefort Vinaigrette
• 1 lb marinated, roasted Beets (golden, chioggind red beets), diced into 1/2” cubes
• 1 Fennel Bulb, slice 1/8” thick
• 1 lb Haricots Verts, cleaned and blanched until just tender
• 1 each Avocado (ripe but not too soft), cut into 1/2” cubes
• 1/4 head Radicchio, cut into fine julienne (optional)
• 1 bunch Chives, cut fine
• 2 oz. Roquefort, crumbled
• 1 cup Roquefort Vinaigrette
• Salt and Pepper to Taste

Place beets, fennel, haricots verts and radicchio in bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 the vinaigrette and toss gently. Add more dressing if too dry.
Divide salad onto four plates or serving platter. Top with avocado and crumbled Roquefort. Sprinkle with chives.

Roasted Beets
• 1 1/2 lb Beets (red, golden or chioggia), evenly sized
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbs. Olive Oil
• 4 sprigs Thyme

Wash beets and dry with a towel. Toss with other ingredients and place in a fitting baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake at 375°F until tender when pierced with a tooth pick or skewer. About 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Let beets cool slightly and peel and dice while still warm. Sprinkle beets with some sugar, salt and balsamic vinegar (preferable white balsamic vinegar) Set aside to cool.

Roquefort Vinaigrette
• 2 oz crumbled Roquefort
• 1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar
• 3/4 cup Olive Oil
• Salt and Pepper to taste

Place Roquefort, vinegar in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk in oil slowly


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