Bellissimo Gourmet Italian Delicatessen

Bellissimo-deli WP

By John & Dorothy Salmon

 Fabulous Deli Food on Napa’s Main Street

Napa’s exciting restaurant scene continues to add new places for all of us to dine and to be entertained. In addition to all of the other important benefits of this beautiful place where we live, it’s a great place to be hungry. It seems like every week we hear about a new place opening. In just the past few months we have enjoyed City Winery adding an exciting new restaurant to our beloved Napa Valley Opera House; LuLu’s Kitchen adding amazing food and wine to their menu; Lucero Olive Oil bringing expanded olive oil experiences to downtown Napa (including chocolate flavored olive oil); Napkins Bar and Grill buzzing with people having fun every night of the week and into the wee hours.  Coming soon, we look forward to an expanded Bounty Hunter, and the new Velo Pizzeria, Mango on Main, BurgerFi and many more additions to our burgeoning foodie scene. You can’t walk down many blocks in downtown Napa today and not smell, eat and enjoy a wonderful variety of food choices!

Among her other nonprofit endeavors, Dorothy is the President of the Board of The Pathway Home, which is a private nonprofit that provides comprehensive residential treatment for our Nation’s military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who are impacted by Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other post-combat, mental health challenges. The Pathway Home assists these warriors to successfully reintegrate into their families and the community at large. A few weeks ago, Dorothy held a luncheon meeting at Bellisimo with some of the Pathway Board members to talk about the Pathway program and to do the research for this Napa Valley Marketplace restaurant review. That’s Dorothy’s idea of multi-tasking!

Everyone thought the food was fabulous, well priced, and the atmosphere and friendly service was wonderful. Executive Chef, Glenn Haffner, and owner, Ali Ince, can be seen at the restaurant most days, greeting customers and making everyone happy. Originally from Turkey, Ali has 17 years of experience in the restaurant business. He began his career with a Five Star restaurant in Topkapa Palace in Istanbul, then with Celebrity Cruise Lines, and then with the same Bellissimo Deli concept in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey.

Bellissimo serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and stays open until 8:00 pm. If you are hankering for a sandwich, head for Bellissimo. You can order pre-prepared, lunch boxes and dinners to take home and enjoy ($8.95 to $12.00 for box lunches and $8.95 to $15.95 for dinners). You can’t beat that. If you have been looking for an authentic Italian Deli, try Bellissimo. The food and service is fabulous and it is becoming our new place to hang out for lunch, to meet friends for a quick breakfast, or to have a committee meeting in style. You can expect quick service, a friendly environment and great food at very reasonable prices.

The lunch menu will make you think you are in Italy, with Chef Haffner’s own family blend of ingredients, such as in-house–roasted, pork loin on a toasted Sassari sandwich, sliced thick and topped with fresh pear, frisee and rosemary aioli on a baguette ($7.95). Yountville Mayor and Pathway Board member, John Dunbar, ordered that and declared it to be incredible. All breads are freshly baked daily, according to Ali. So, early in the morning you can order fried egg with grilled eggplant, zucchini, onions and mozzarella on a fresh-baked bagel, croissant, or their own fabulous bread ($3.95). You could also start your morning with a three-egg omelet stuffed with rosemary flank steak, provolone, tomatoes and arugula ($5.95) or honey–pecan, sticky buns made with cardamom yeast dough ($1.95), or Belissimo’s now famous Napa Scramble of three eggs mixed with honey-maple ham, bacon, spinach, peppers, onions, mozzarella and parmesan, served with rosemary home fries ($6.95). Their mixed-berry tart, with pastry cream and fresh berries ($3.50) are to die for, as are their fruit Crostata made with fresh, seasonal fruit and marzipan ($3.50). You can imagine you are in New Orleans if

you order their Apple Beignet’s ($3.50) with a cup of Peets Coffee or Peet’s teas. Why would you want to cook breakfast when you can head to Bellissimo where they can do it better and less expensively? If you are watching your gluten, you can order their gluten-free Sonoma, risotto salad, with rice, oranges, almonds and bell peppers in citrus-mint dressing ($7.95 per lb.).

At the Pathway lunch meeting, Dorothy ordered the Torino sandwich, made with brie, frisee, pears and fig tapenade ($7.95) and it was delicious. Board members, Jeannine Yeomans and Kate Berquist, each enjoyed the Catania sandwich, made with grilled vegetables, roasted peppers, basil, caper aioli, provolone and secret ingredients, on a baguette ($6.95).

Bellissimo carries 90 different, local and international wines, with new wines by the glass featured every week for $6.00 to $7.00 per glass with your
lunch or dinner. The 30 beers that they feature cost from $3.00 per glass if you drink it in the restaurant, to $7.95 to $9.95 if you are taking it home with you. There are plenty of soft drinks, Peet’s coffee and teas to choose from for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Meats and cheeses are sold by the pound, with such tasty options as prosciutto ($22.95); whole milk mozzarella ($11.95); pepper jack ($9.95); Horseradish cheddar ($11.95); Havarti with dill ($11.95); and Bianco D’Oro Italian Dry Salami ($9.95); Lemon-pepper chicken ($11.95); London Broil roast beef ($14.95); Cracked-pepper turkey breast ($11.95)  and rosemary, sun–dried tomato ham ($12.95) just  to name a few. The meat department rivals those  seen in New York or Sicily. Their salads are unique  and wonderful and you can even order a make your own sandwich if you can’t find something on their menu that you like … which is pretty hard to imagine!

Are you having a party and want fabulous food but you don’t want to cook yourself? Their catering department can help. Your guests will love the jumbo lump-crab cakes, stuffed with black and white sesame seeds, sweet corn, bell pepper and panko ($5.99); or poached calamari and shrimp salad with cannellini beans, brandy mayonnaise and American caviar ($55.00
for a half tray).

Give Bellissimo a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You won’t be disappointed!  Just prior to writing this review we brought our 4 and 7 year old grandchildren to Bellissimo.  They report that the gluten free canollis are amazing and they gave the chocolate muffins and chocolate chip cookies a standing ovation.  Kids know what’s good!

1000 Main Street, Ste. 100 | Napa, CA | (707) 266-1085

Daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  |  http://www.bellissimogourmet.com

An Italian Masterpiece – Gourmet Italian Just What The Doctor Ordered.

An Italian Masterpiece –

Gourmet Italian Just What The Doctor Ordered.

FRati Gelato WP

 

Frati Gelato Café, an authentic and unequaled Italian masterpiece, takes root in Downtown Napa. Gourmet Gelato handmade daily, fresh Panini and daily specials, Italian espresso and Vino leave the masses asking “What’s not to love?”

This gem of an establishment was brought to Napa by Italian Doctor Anthony LuPriore and  his brother-in-law Ron DeLay. Ron is a retired IBM executive who says “Anthony is the heart and soul of  Frati and his creative culinary passion  is reflected in our menu and style. We call him ‘Dr. Gelato’.  I just do the trash and the cash and stay out of his way”.

Anthony’s road to “Gelato Master” began in Rhode Island where he was born. Surrounded by a world of food from a young age, he worked in a neighborhood butcher shop and learned the art of cooking from the world’s best cook, his Mother. While food played a major role in Anthony’s formative years, he was always intrigued by the world of science and  uprooted  himself at the age of  28 to move to a small city, Perugia, in Umbria, Italy to study medicine.

 

After completing his training and opening his own practice Anthony yearned for the world of food again. Eventually he and some colleagues opened a restaurant in the Italian city of Perugia called Casa Lugol where he took on the role of executive chef. During the seven years running the restaurant, Anthony learned how to perfect all the local cuisine.  However, after 25 years away from the States, Anthony longed to be closer to his family. Not wanting to leave the country he loved, Anthony began thinking of a way to take a piece of Italy with him.

 

Though he owned his own restaurant and ran a successful medical practice, it was a local gelato shop that inspired Anthony.  He then applied to the only government accredited gelato school in Italy, Academia de Gelato. Anthony  was one of the very few accepted  into the school gaining points for his past culinary experience, fluency in Italian, and his 12 years as a local physician. Soon after he began work at the Academia de Gelato, it was clear he had found his
true calling.

 

Under the supervision of Luca Caveziel, the man responsible for perfecting the gelato process in the late 1960’s, Anthony studied the intricacies of gelato. He discovered that science was responsible for creating the incredibly smooth texture and deeply rich flavors of Gelato. After six months of complicated equations he had learned the delicate art of recipe balancing and graduated with the elite title of “Gelato Master.” With these skills in hand,  Anthony moved away from the rolling hills of Tuscany to the festive downtown of Napa to introduce his expertise in Italian  gelato.

 

The difficulty in making Italian Gelato in the U.S. is in guaranteeing that it will be made as authentic as if it were being made in Italy.   Being true to the scientific process and fresh ingredients, Anthony has meticulously sought after suppliers who would ship him products from specific regions in Italy, ensuring the genuine flavor of ingredients such as pistachios and hazelnuts. His vanilla comes from two sources, Madagascar and Tahiti, his chocolate from Belgium, and the finest local fresh fruit. Even the machines that churn the gelato were special ordered and shipped over from Italy.

 

Anthony has made over 300 flavors since the doors opened this past September. His business partner and brother-in-law Ron says, “Anthony smiles a lot when he’s making gelato.”

 

Ron’s broad business experience, love for food and people, and priority for customer service has provided for a true partnership.  And to keep their customers happy they have a notification list where you can sign up to be informed which flavors have been made and what the daily lunch special is.  With fresh gelato being put out every day you will almost never see the same combination of flavors in the case.

 

As tempting as it is, gelato isn’t the only reason to stop in. Don’t forget to sample the rest of their menu which is just as authentically Italian not to mention delectable.  There are a dozen Panini’s each one as good as the next. Two continual favorites are the Brinata based on the popular flavors of  Northern Italian Brie ( sheep’s milk), arugula and basil pesto,  and the Calabrese with its spicy Italian salami, arugula , provolone and sundried tomato pesto. Their side salads are distinctive and scrumptious as well. These masterpieces vary from a delicious mix of corn, gorgonzola cheese and cabbage to sun dried tomato, chickpea and scallions, or even gourmet Italian olives.  They also offer a daily special which usually has roots in specific regions of Italy. For example one day it may be a butternut squash  ravioli with a light béchamel sauce served on a bed of spinach , the next it might be the ultimate Italian comfort food, Pasta e Fagioli. Of course all of these dishes are imbued with special spices and copious amounts of TLC.  As you might expect, even their hearty soups are made from scratch.

 

Frati Gelato fits into the unique vibe on the Riverfront in downtown Napa with it’s variety of excellent restaurants and quality food. Frati Gelato is the perfect quick stop for a light meal, a treat after a meal or event or just a simple glass of wine.  If you can’t make up your mind on what to order just ask “the doctor “ what he prescribes!

Health Facts…………………..

Frati Gelato is a low-fat, low-cholesterol, & low-sodium delicacy and our Frati Sorbetto is lactose- free, fat-free & has less than 100 calories. Frati Gelato is a true jewel of the Mediterranean diet.

670 Main Street | 707-265-0265 | fratigelatocafe.com | Sun. – Thurs. 10am – 9pm | Fri. – Sat.  10am – 10pm

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.

Il Posto Trattoria – … a place to celebrate family, friends and life

Il Posto Trattoria – … a place to celebrate family, friends and life

We asked Richard and Susan Walton to join us for what we knew would be a delightful dinner at Il Posto. We have known and admired Justin Graffigna for years, and watched as his career in Napa evolved. We kept hearing more and more folks talking about how amazing the food is at Il Posto, so we decided to see for ourselves if Justin had realized his dream of opening up his own restaurant.  Without a doubt, we believe that Justin has succeeded!

Il Posto is homey and was full of people we often see in town. This is definitely a “hometown boy makes good” place to hang out, with terrific Italian food. There were lots of families that night, which says that this is a great place to take your kids and Grandma. Converting a paint store into a restaurant is not an easy task, but Justin Graffigna and his long-time friend, Arik Housley, have done it well. The restaurant is easy to find. It’s, just off Highway 29, at the corner of Wine Country Ave. and Solano Ave., next to Osprey Seafood, about a mile north of the Marriott Hotel. The decor is very Italian and the service is friendly and fast. Il Posto has nightly specials, such as Italian sausage with peppers and onions; chicken marsala; lasagna with spinach and papa sauce; veal osso buco; crab cioppino; oven-roasted porchetta and, on Sunday, you can enjoy the 3 course, “Chef’s Supper.” Il Posto also has a great kids’ menu, with all meals priced at $8, and wonderful side dishes, such as garlic bread; cranberry bean ragu; broccoli di cecco; sauteed zucchini; and pan roasted polenta, to name a few.

The pizzas looked great, but we decided to try almost everything on the menu other than the pizza. Jennifer was our server. She was lots of fun and very informative. Michael, the Assistant Manager, made sure that we were having a good time because that evening, Justin was enjoying a night of camping with his kids. If you are a local, you will recognize Justin from his stints at Fume, Don Giovanni and Celadon, to name just a few places where he has honed his skills.

Il Posto has a small, but interesting, wine list of Napa Valley wines and a few interesting ones from Italy, Argentina and Lodi. If you really want to go Italian, you can order a glass of Spumante from Italy for $8.50 or a bottle for $32. Our friend, Richard, brought a great bottle of Richard Williams Cabernet (RW)2 that we loved. Richard is a gourmet cook and a member of a group of guys who have met monthly to cook together for years So, he was excited to try Justin and Arik’s food.
We started our evening by sharing the crispy calamari, with lemon romesco sauce ($10). Our favorite calamari is what Greg Cole serves at Celadon. Il Posto’s calamari comes in a close second. I am sure that is because Justin wants to let Greg keep that honor! The chef sent us some remarkable, fresh-herb arancini, lightly breaded risotto balls, with fontina and marinara sauce ($8), which disappeared in seconds. Then, we shared some terrific grilled bruschetta with toy box tomatoes, house-made herb ricotta and basil and saba ($8), followed by zucca- summer squash, olive oil croutons, watercress, burrata, and tomato water vinaigrette salad ($11).

Finding room on our table for all the shared dishes wasn’t easy, but Jennifer figured out how to keep things going for us so that there was no delay in the next remarkable dish. Remember, this is an Italian restaurant and we were only JUST at the beginning antipasti and salads!

We chatted with some friends sitting at a table next to us who told us to be sure to try to the gnocchi. So, when we made our shared decisions for dinner, the first thing that we ordered was the sauteed ricotta gnocchi with fresh herbs and the family-secret papa sauce ($18), which was fabulous! We also shared the tortellini ala carbonara, with bacon marmalade filling and black pepper ($18).  According to Richard, this was the best tortellini ala carbonara he had ever had.  That’s a great recommendation from a guy who really knows how to cook!

John wanted to try the fettuccini frutta di mare; clams, mussels, prawns, scallops cooked with basil mine pesto cream sauce and sprinkled with pine nuts ($19), which everyone tried and really liked. We were all having a hard time eating one more thing when chef sent out the orecchiette; Italian sausage, cauliflower, red cabbage, spicy calabrian chili, fontina cheese, and garnished with fried capers ($10). We took a break, and then tried the eggplant parmigiana; sautéed with spinach, marinara and green garlic puree ($17) and the pan roasted polenta with spicy Italian sausage ragu and broccoli di cecco ($18) and, finally, the chicken ala picatta, with lemon, caper, butter sauce, pepperonata ($18). All the dishes were terrific; very authentic Italian and VERY filling. If we were not writing a restaurant review, we would not be ordering all this food, but, that being said, we managed to eat almost all of it!

To top it all off, chef insisted that we try the lemon and olive oil cake with plum agrodolce and stone fruit ($8) and their panna cotta with strawberries and dark micro basil ($7). We ate every bite! We waddled out of Il Posto knowing it was going to become a family favorite. The “little Italian restaurant around the corner” that locals would find as home and lucky visitors would rave about..

Give Il Posto a try … you won’t be disappointed!

 

RECIPE

Orrechiette

Yield:  Serves 6

Approx. 24 ounces of dried orrechiette pasta
1 pound of bulk Italian sausage
1 cauliflower
1/2 head of cabbage
1 pound fontina cheese
½ ounce calabrian chilies, chopped
1 bunch chives, finely sliced
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep ahead:
Take cabbage and chop into fine strands.
Cook sausage and break apart into small pieces
Cut cauliflower into small florets
Grate fontina cheese

Get a large pot of boiling water

In a large sauté pan heat grapeseed oil and
add cauliflower, cauliflower and cabbage.

Meanwhile, cook orrechiette according to package instructions. When pasta is ready and al dente, add
to sauté pan, reserving a little of the pasta water.
Add chopped chilies and fontina cheese. Stir vigorously until the pasta water and cheese form an emulsified sauce, add more pasta water if needed. When sauce is formed, add chives and season. Serve warm.