Ca’ Momi Osteria

View More: http://stevejrosenfield.pass.us/camomi

By John & Dorothy Salmon

Another Fabulous Addition to Downtown Napa

Over the holidays, we had the pleasure of dining at Ca’ Momi Osteria in their very hip and cool restaurant on First Street just west of Main Street, where the Westin once hosted their timeshare office and Naked Wines had offices. Ca’ Momi Osteria remade the space into a warm, inviting and unique restaurant with killer Italian food. Their motto is “Obsessively Authentic Italian” and they succeed at that in spades. The decor is upbeat with a bevy of 1950s and 1960s Italian films played on a large wall near the front entrance, and the spacious bar is stacked with zillions of bottles of wine and liquor with unique lights hanging down from the ceiling. The wonderful wood walls and tables and original brick wall at the back of the restaurant give the restaurant a warm feeling. A huge sign over the bar says exactly what Ca’ Momi is all about…“HEARTCRAFTED.” They want to make sure that in addition to ‘Eat Authentic and Be Authentic,’ we need to eat heart healthy foods. That’s good advice for everyone.

When we were there on a Tuesday night during the holidays, it was packed with mostly folks we did not recognize, and we know a lot of locals! That means that our visitors have found and like the place, so it must be good for our locals too! Ca’ Momi seats 46 diners at tables, another 30 at the bar and, weather permitting, 30 more outside. The wait staff is dressed in black T shirts with “Obsessively Authentic” in bold yellow gold letters. The place lives its mission with staff that are professional, fast, friendly and serve great Italian food. The aroma waffling through the restaurant was intoxicating and the food was fabulous.

We were greeted at the door by Jonny Tindall, Ca’ Momi’s Director of Culinary Operations, a Napa native and Vintage High School graduate. Our server, Melissa, was friendly, fun and accomplished in making sure we knew what was irresistible on the menu.

Dorothy started out with a glass of Ca’ Momi Napa Valley 2013 Zinfandel ($12) and John ordered a glass of Ca’ Momi 2012 Chardonnay ($15). Both wines were wonderful. The homemade warm schiacciata wood oven flatbread ($5) was great and so was the hefty portion of the burrata e verdure (originated in Puglia) made from wood-oven roasted vegetables, house-pulled burrata and schiacciata all’olio ($14). The burrata e verdure could be a meal in itself! So much so, that for dinner Dorothy ordered Ca’ Momi’s famous ribolita (Toscana) zuppe made with black kale, cabbage, seasonal leafy greens, cannelini beans, parmiagiano reggaino and housemade ciabatta bread ($12). John had the salsiccia e friarelli pizze made with housemade pork sausage, rapini smoked mozzarella de bufala and no tomato ($18). It was delicious too and very filling. Jonny wanted us to try Ca’ Momi’s pasta con radicchio e zucca (Veneto) made with sauteed butternut squash, chioggia radicchio, shallot soffritto, sage, piave. If you are so inclined, there is a gluten free option for this amazing pasta ($18). We ended up taking half of this home in a box for the following day’s lunch.

For desert (dolci) we ordered the housemade organic gelato, with one scoop of vanilla bean gelato and one scoop of malaga brandy and raisin cream gelato ($7). Dorothy raved about the food and told Melissa that the real test of great italian deserts was perfect panna cotta. So, of course, Melissa brought us Ca’ Momi’s panna cotta al caramello which was the best panna cotta ever ($9)!

Ca’ Momi Osteria has a varied menu of Antipasti originated from all over Italy, great Pastas from bigoli coi rovinazzi, spaghetti ala bottarga, tagliatelle con i funghi di bosco to lasagne alla bolognese and gnocchi di ricotta salata al tartufo nero. The meals are all good sized and delicious. The guests sitting on each side of our table raved about their meals and, again, the place was packed. These are all good signs for success. Ca’ Momi’s pizze offerings are also unique, large and very filling as are their salads (contorni).

The Ca’ Momi wine list is extensive featuring Napa Valley and Italian wines. The owners and staff are all music lovers and promote “Do It For The Love Foundation.” Ca’ Momi offers a unique selection of non alcoholic bottled beverages from Italy ($5) and tropical green or organic black iced tea ($4) along with great cocktails ($12), Cocktail Di Vino ($8) and a nice selection of Birra (Beers) Pints ($6) and Pitchers ($18). Next time we are at Ca’ Momi Osteria we will try their cocktails. Maybe the il siciliano made with charbay meyer lemon vodka, pur blood orange liqueur, bergamot syrup, lemon and grapefruit or their mulo italiano made with 360 vodka, house ginger shrug, cock n’ bull ginger beer and fresh mint. The entire menu is interesting.

In 2010, partners Un-Chef Valentina Guolo-Migotto, Master Pizzaiolo and Winemaker Dario De Conti, and Winemaker and Brewmaster Stefano Migotto, opened the popular Ca’ Momi Enoteca in the Oxbow Public Market and they now further their vision with Ca’ Momi Osteria in 2015. They bring their Northern Italian heritage to Napa for us all to enjoy!

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Pasta Prego – Back after five years and better than ever!

PastaPrego_MattMiersch_ChefRuizSwp

By John & Dorothy Salmon

We recently had the pleasure of dining with our wonderful friend, Lauren Ackerman of Ackerman Family Vineyards, at Pasta Prego in their new restaurant at 1502 Main Street, in the space formerly occupied by Biscuits.  For long-time locals, thinking of Pasta Prego and Marco Ruiz, its Chef, always makes us smile and remember his fantastic dishes such as Pasta Diablo, Chicken Marsala, and other warm thoughts of great food at reasonable prices, served with a smile and genuine friendship.

For those who frequented Pasta Prego when it was on Jefferson Street five years ago, the new and exciting Pasta Prego on Main Street is such a gift!  Pasta Prego’s owner, Matthew Miersch, is a third generation Napan, who knows a good thing when he sees it and clearly did a great job turning the former Biscuits space into a lovely, classy and well-designed dinner house for 58 guests.

We were greeted at the door by Matthew Miersch, who was upbeat, friendly and very proud of the new and upscale Pasta Prego. Matthew always loved Marco Ruiz and Pasta Prego’s food, so it is like a family reunion to enter the new Pasta Prego. The interior of Pasta Prego on Main Street is done in soft, brown and tan tones and, interestingly, separates diners from each other with lovely half-drapes, soft lighting, an open bar at the end of the dining room and lovely tables that, as we learned over dinner, were handmade with love by the staff when the tables ordered from a restaurant supply company were delayed. Home Depot and teamwork to the
rescue once again!

Soft Italian music plays in the background and, as you walk in, there is a big Pasta Prego Welcome Mat in front of the buffet that holds a large vase of freshly-cut grapevines. Pasta Prego is currently open only for dinner.  We hope that changes soon. The black and white photos on the walls are courtesy of Laura Norcia Vitale, a freelance film photographer. They are beautiful, and for sale as well.

Back in the kitchen, preparing some of the best food you will ever taste, are the three amigos…Chef Marco Ruiz, Benjamin Salgado and Pasqual Villanueva. All three have been together on and off for years and make heavenly food! We
got to give Marco Ruiz a hug and congratulate him on his latest venture on Main Street.

We were served by Vianney, a lovely woman from American Canyon and a graduate of Vintage High School. There are LOTS of locals at Pasta Prego. In fact, most of the folks in the restaurant that night were locals who were all happy to see Pasta Prego back in the “hood.” We had fun talking to Vianney about Napa and the changes in the past few years, and finally got to ordering our dinner. We ordered a bottle of Hall 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($36) and then were treated to the Smoked Salmon antipasti with capers & red onion, all placed on a bed of sweet-corn pancake with lemon aioli ($12) and Marco’s famous Pan Roasted Polenta with wild mushrooms in a brandy sauce ($10). Both were amazing and disappeared very quickly! John then tried the Bruschetta ($8), which he loved. We were all delighted to be reunited with Marco’s food!

For dinner, Lauren ordered the Golden and Red Beet Salad, with baby greens, goat cheese, roasted almonds, and red wine vinaigrette ($10) and the Penne Pasta, with smoked chicken, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella, and a basil marinara sauce ($20). She thought the Penne Pasta and the salad both wonderful. John had the long–honored, Pasta Diablo, with large grilled prawns wrapped with pancetta, on a bed of spaghetti, with broccoli, garlic, chili flakes and olive oil ($23). We laughed about earlier times that we had Marco make the Pasta Diablo for dinner parties because nobody makes it like he does. Of course, John’s Pasta Diablo was the best! Dorothy ordered the Rock Shrimp Salad, served on baby greens with red onions, tomatoes, cucumber and a citrus vinaigrette ($14) and the Risotto, made with parmesan cheese, marinated tomatoes,  mushrooms and Sicilian sausage ($22), which was amazing!

Pasta Prego’s wine list is almost all Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices to please any local or visitor.  If you bring your own wine into Pasta Prego, there is a $15 corkage fee. However; the fee is waived for each 750 ml bottle purchased there. All in all, a great deal for a dinner out with fabulous food, great ambiance, a beloved chef and a lot of your friends and neighbors sitting nearby.

After hugging Marco and telling him how much we love the new rendition of Pasta Prego, Vianney “forced us” to try the Tiramisu ($8) which, of course, melted in our mouths as three forks attacked it, before we waddled out of the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed if you try Pasta Prego on Main Street. March Ruiz’s famous Margherita Pizza is
on the menu along with hishomemade Ravioli filled with spinach, ricotta, and parmesan cheese, served with citrus cream and marinara sauce ($19), his Fettuccine with sautéed chicken breast, prosciutto, fresh peas and a white wine garlic sauce ($20), just to name a couple of the all-time favorites that locals love and visitors will fall in love with too.

It was so great to see Marco in the kitchen again after a five year hiatus. His story is one of the great American success stories. Marco emigrated from Guatemala in the 1980’s. He began his culinary career as a dishwasher and quickly was in the kitchen with Donna Scala at Piatti’s in Yountville, and then worked with Greg Cole and other well-known chefs in the Napa Valley.

Pasta Prego is back, better than ever. We love it and you will too!

1502 Main Street | Napa, CA | (707) 492-8026

Open daily for dinner 5:00 to 9:30 p.m.

RECIPE:

Chicken Marsala

Ingredients:

1 double boneless chicken breast

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon chopped garlic

3 tablespoon bread crumbs

¼ cup Marsala cooking wine

¼ cup veal stock

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 ounces of cooked spaghetti

1 cup sliced mushrooms

Cut the chicken in half. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add the chicken and sauté over medium heat until it’s a golden brown on both sides. Put the chicken in the oven for about 5 minutes, and then add the mushrooms, sautéed until they are soft. Add the garlic, Marsala, veal stock and butter reduced down for 30 seconds. Add more veal stock,
if necessary.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water and drain well. In a large skillet add the olive oil, bread crumbs, and garlic, sautéed over medium heat for about 5 seconds. Finally, toss the spaghetti with all the ingredients.

Serve the spaghetti on the plate first, then place the chicken on top and add the sauce on top of the chicken.

Ciccio in Yountville…

Ciccio in Yountville…

A great location, terrific Italian comfort food,
fun for everyone and very reasonable!

By John & Dorothy Salmon

ciccio pizza

We walked into Ciccio (pronounced “chee-cho”) on a Friday night to a packed house, full of locals and lots of visitors too. Ciccio is lovely, with great ambiance and a beautiful copper ceiling, marble tables, very cool, orange flatware, small, squat, wine glasses, great Italian art posters on the walls and interesting lighting and fans. The menu is hand-written on brown paper and the place has a sort of a funky, family-style feel, with an updated look. It’s one of the very few places around that still offers personalized matchbooks, and keeps an antique meat slicer near the open kitchen as a reminder of the past.

 

Enjoying the wonderful feel of the place, our next pleasant surprise was that the prices are very reasonable. The menu is a bit limited, but it’s a great place for folks looking for hearty, Italian comfort food at reasonable prices. As soon as we walked in the door, we stopped at their table to say hi to our friends, Joel and Kathy Tranmer, who were with their pals the Keevers. They immediately raved about Anita’s Meatballs Al Forno and the Wood-fired Artichokes with
Walnut Bagnacauda. That made our first choices easy when we were seated by Kim, the friendly manger.

 

The service was good and will get better as the restaurant continues to perfect itself. The open kitchen makes it feel a bit like home, and the three female chefs made everything feel hip and under control. Polly Lappetito heads the lovely ladies of the open, gourmet kitchen staff. Guests are treated to Polly’s wood–fired, unique pizzas ($10 – $16) along with a rotating selection of small plates and terrific pasta dishes. Polly comes to Ciccio after having served as the Executive Chef at the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant at Greystone in St. Helena. Frank and Karen Altamura who, along with their children, own Ciccio, make sure that ingredients for Ciccio’s comfort Italian food, whenever possible, comes from the Altamura family 400 acre ranch in Wooden Valley; a ranch that has been in their family since 1855. And now we know the reason for the name “Ciccio.” It means “Little Frankie” which was Frank’s childhood name.

 

Ciccio is open on Wednesday through Sunday for self-service coffee and pastries from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. That will bring back some memories for those who fondly remember Gordon’s Café. Going back a bit further, the building was the home of a small, Italian Grocery. In many ways, Ciccio’s is going back to its original roots. The building had been under construction for quite some time, with everyone wondering what its next incarnation would be. Now, we can see that Frank Altamura went all in and gutted the 1916 building in order to turn it into a cozy, 50 seat Italian gem.

 

A side benefit of stopping to chat with Joel and Kathy Tranmer was that Olga and Bill Keever of Keever Vineyards were so kind as to send over a couple of glasses of their 2009 Cabernet. http://www.keevervineyards.com  It was terrific and a perfect complement to the meatballs and artichokes. With our dinner, we ordered a carafe of Ciccio’s House White $28, which we both thought was very good. Midwestern Meat Lover John thought the meatballs were great, with a perfect garlicky blend of tomatoes and large meatballs ($11). The Wood fired Artichokes ($8) were prepared in a light olive oil and served with a walnut filling that was delicious and interesting. Our server, Chelsea, was very friendly and accommodating and made us feel very much at home.

 

For dinner, John had the Veal Picatta with sautéed escarole ($15) for his main dish. Dorothy enjoyed the Gorgonzola, pancetta and arugula pizza ($16), which was larger that she could finish (so John helped!), but delicious. After dinner, we were tempted to try their Gelato Al Fratti ($4.50) or their Gelato of many flavors served with a cookie plate, but we decided to call it a night and come back again for the desserts. Most important, it was clear that everyone at Ciccio that night was having a good time, whether families, visitors or locals out for the night with friends.

 

Ciccio has a full bar, staffed with two friendly and talented bartenders, with four seats at the bar. The bartenders feature drinks such as Italian Greyhounds ($10), a Blum’s John Collins ($10), a Ciccio’s Classic Margarita ($12), or an Italian Mojito ($10). Ciccio’s House Red or House White ($6 a glass or $28 a carafe) or try the Altamura, 2008 Sangiovese ($10 a glass or $48 a bottle). The selections are mostly Napa Valley wines. Since this is an Italian family restaurant, you can order Jaco Poli Muscato Grappa or Jaco Poli Gewurztraminer Grappa ($16).

 

Corkage is $20 for Domestic wines and $25 for Best of the World wines. Ciccio also offers sodas for $2.50, or several after-dinner drinks, along with some interesting beers. John took a short trip down memory lane when he noticed that Ciccio serves Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. “PBR” was his beer of choice in college and he kept it cold by submerging it in the rivers of Northern Michigan while on canoeing trips!

 

Ciccio is a great addition to Yountville’s Italian restaurants. Now you don’t have to drive far to enjoy two or three of them.  Ciccio is fun, a great place for the family; friendly, and very reasonably priced. Try it for a quick stop for coffee and pastries for breakfast, or dinner with friends or family. We know that you will
enjoy it as much as we did.