Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review May 2012
Ca’ Momi – Napa’s Amazing Italian Restaurant in the Oxbow Market
By Dorothy and John Salmon
W e stopped by the Oxbow Market recently and had dinner at Ca’ Momi. It was incredible! Ca’ Momi has some of the best, most authentic and most interesting Italian food anywhere. Saying that in Napa these days means that it has to really be good, since we now have some of the best Italian restaurants in Northern California. The Oxbow Market, on First Street in downtown Napa, is full of great food and fun places and lots of interesting people. Ca’ Momi is located across from Annette’s Chocolates, in the middle of an amazing food row. It is the ONLY Pizzeria in Napa to be officially certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Association, an Italian association that oversees the strict requirements of Neapolitan pizza making. Only five restaurants in California have made this prestigious list and fewer than sixty have received it in the United States. We understand why Ca’ Momi is beloved by REAL Italian foodies. Not only is the food really good, it is served by the staff and chefs with love, flair, and real “Napkin” homespun fun. If you are lucky enough to be there when Bella is working, you are in for a real treat.
Bella was working the front counter the night we were there, and we had fun recalling Napa before wine and the Regusci family history, and what it was like growing up in Yountville when dairy farms and prune orchards outnumbered vineyards. Bella’s family dairy farm was located on the Silverado Trail near Yountville. If you want to know some great stories about Napa County’s past life, sit at the counter and talk to Bella (not her real name, but at Ca Momi, everyone has a favorite Italian name). While we were enjoying our meal, Bella was giving tips about Napa to a couple from New York City. It was pretty interesting to hear them rave about the food at Ca’ Momi, since New York City has a few great Italian restaurants of its own!
Ca’ Momi is Italian for “House of Momi.” It was named for local legend, Momi dea Bionda, and his obsession with his vineyards and house in northern Italy that now belong to the Ca’ Momi owners. Owners, Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto, and Stefano Migotto believe that Momi’s protective spirit is still watching over their property. Their wines are a celebration of his passions and his quest for the simple pleasures of life. The wines that they sell, along with their pizza, pasta and the most incredible desserts in the Valley, are as good as their food! After making great wines for several years, the three owners decided to show Napa locals and visitors alike what a REAL Italian pizzeria was like; with wood fired Italian pizzas, traditional Italian pastries and terrific Italian wines, mostly theirs, with other wines from smaller regions in Italy. The pizzas are the best … and don’t you dare ask for red pepper flakes or parmesan cheese!
For all you Slow Food lovers, Ca’ Momi is a proud partner in the Slow Food movement in San Francisco and Napa. For our Italians in Napa, this is like being at home and, for those travelers who love Italy, it’s almost like being there.
We began our dinner with two of their great wines. Dorothy ordered the 2010 Double Gold SF Chronicle Wine Competition Zinfandel ($17.95). She thinks her son Rob’s Zinfandel is the best in the world, but this Zin is fabulous. John ordered the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Silver Award winner ($17.95) that he thought was very good. While we were sipping our wine, talking to our neighbors from New York, and going down memory lane with Bella, we crunched on some amazing Schiacciata Al Rosmarino O All, ‘ Olio Pizza, flat bread, Sicilian sea salt and organic rosemary ($5.25). This stuff is REALLY habit forming.
For appetizers, John ordered Ca’ Momi’s famous asparagus soup (Crema Di Asparagi) garnished with Bellwether crème fraiche ($8.50) and Dorothy had the Verdure Artoste, oven roasted seasonal vegetables ($8.50). Both were wonderful. For the main course, John ordered the Lasagne Alla Bolognese, pork, beef, tomato sauce, with parmigiano reggiano and besciamella sauce ($13.75). It was served piping hot in its own lovely glass baking dish. Dorothy ordered the Cannelloni Ricotta and Spinaci, spinach, Bellwether Jersey ricotta and besciamella sauce ($13.50). Everything was cooked to perfection, hot and tasty.
Bella went on and on about the desserts, so we had to try them for this review. If you believe that, then we are better story tellers than we think! We did not have to have our arms twisted to try the freshly baked, six Bigne’s ($8.95) and a Millefoglie ($8.00). Millefoglie is the Italian version of the French pastry Mille-feuille, which means a layered cake that can be filled with a number of delicious treats. We could have ordered a latte macchiato, a cappuccino or an Italian Macchiato if we could have put one more thing in our stomachs, but that was NOT possible after this dinner.
The ambiance of Ca’ Momi is wonderful, with reclaimed wood, corrugated metal and lots of everything Italian in a very small place that is bustling with excitement, and a staff of hard–working, very friendly people, who are there to make you happy. Try it! Sit inside or outside and you will never be disappointed.
Spezzatino and Polenta
300 ml veggie broth or water
2 small diced carrots.
2 small diced yellow onions
2 small diced celery
1 garlic cloves, chopped
25 gr (1oz) butter
150 ml red wine (NO OAK), or Pinot Grigio
200 gr (4 oz.) lardo
400 gr (16 oz.)beef shoulder cut in 1 inch squares
250 gr (10 oz.) Christina tomatoes.
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 spring sage
flour as needed
Cut the meat into cubes, medium sized pieces. Once the meat is cut, toss it in the flour, set aside. Cut the lardo into small pieces.
Heat the oil and butter together, sauté all the veggies until onions are translucent. Add the meat and the dried rosemary. Cook it for about 20 minutes. Add the wine and let the alcohol to cook off. Smell it and taste it.
Transfer the Spezzatino to a deep hotel pan, tie up the bunch of sage and add the water and tomatoes, cover it with foil and put it in the oven for 3 ½ hours at 275 degrees. Taste the meat for doneness and salt; readjust the salt if needed. The meat should be tender and melt in your mouth. If we aren’t there just yet, give it another 40 minutes and try again. Yes, it is the best part of the dish, tasting over and over.
60 grs (4 oz.) polenta
1 cup of water
½ tbs salt
Heat water until boiling point, add the polenta and salt, whisking constantly. Polenta will be done within 5 minutes.
Pour the polenta in the middle of a deep bowl, add the spezzatino around it, garnish with some micro basil and EVOO. Buon Apetito.