Fantastic Flavors of Italy in Napa
Summertime and the living is easy. There is nothing like a ride through the Wine Country. Petaluma is known as The Gateway to the Wine Country and Napa, our destination, could be called The Epicenter. The vines were full of grapes as we wound our way from Petaluma to Napa. It looked like another great harvest was about to take place.
We arrived in Downtown Napa with some time to spare before our reservation at Tuscany, so we decided to see what the shops had to offer. We wandered along First Street through several Home Furnishing stores that had beautiful accessories and one reasonably priced sofa. If we had the right spot for the sofa, it would be in our home right now. However, we did find something that would fit in our kitchen bookshelf at Bookends, a small yet well-stocked bookstore. Since we were about to taste some of the flavors of Italy, we were curious to see what cookbooks might be available. Well, staring right at us was Piedmont, Flavors of Italy. We always thought of Piedmont as a charming city in the East Bay with beautiful parks and stately older homes. Well lo and behold. now we see that another Italian Province not far from Tuscany was also named Piedmont. We bought the cookbook and look forward to trying some of the recipes, so we can compare the tastes of these two Italian Provinces.
We had a feeling that we were in for quite a treat as we sauntered down First Street toward Tuscany. We walked into the restaurant and were warmly greeted by our charming host, Peter Fitzharris, the General Manager. We were seated at a table by an open window and could look back at the open kitchen that had a roasting spit and also a wood fired pizza oven. The open-air al fresco atmosphere was great. The summer breeze made us very comfortable. The Bar area was lively and the tables were accented by white table cloths and flowers. There was a giant floral arrangement that helped to separate the dining room and bar. Hanging vases with Ivy and Orchids added to the beauty of the large room that also featured colorful wall murals of rustic country scenes. The natural pine hardwood floor and comfortable chairs added to the experience.
Our waitress Jennifer and her "shadow", Brent, introduced themselves and our dining experience was about to begin. We started out with a round of sparkling water, S. Pellegrino while we perused the menu. Sourdough bread arrived at our table with a very interesting spread. This Tapand consisted of Roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, capers, parsley, sherry and balsamic vinegar with extra virgin olive oil. We ordered some wines by the glass and were about to experience a casual yet sophisticated evening.
Here are some of the dishes that we recommend.
Antipasti e Insalate
First course appetizers and salads
Organic greens with champagne vinaigrette, sundried cherries and toasted pecans- This is a great starter and we highly recommend it.
Crisp butter lettuce, fresh pears, candied walnuts and creamy Gorgonzola sauce. Rich and perfectly dressed and tossed.
Granchio al Fritto
Fried Dungeness Crab filled Romaine leaves served with tomato coulis.This is lightly breaded and melted in our mouths.
Cozze in Umido
Steamed heaping bowl of Prince Edward Island Mussels with saffron broth, roma tomatoes and lemon thyme. The mussels were tender and we used our fresh sourdough bread to dip into the broth until only shells remained. This could be a full meal if you have a medium appetite.
Pesce Spada Affumicata
Smoked Swordfish with tobiko caviar, sour cream and red onions. Just delicious!
Pane e Fromaggio
Baked flatbread with herbs, garlic and cambozola cheese. This came with one of our favorites- A baked garlic- It worked perfectly with the tasty flatbread and the soft cambozola cheese.
From the Rotisserie: The Highlight Of Tuscan Cuisine
Spice rubbed half chicken with baby Yukon potatoes and vegetables.
This was a great gift from the Rotisserie and is sure to please anyone in your party.
Arista di Maiale
Thick Cut Pork Loin
Finished on the mesquite grill with wild mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and spinach. The pork was tender and the mushroom sauce was better than we had ever tasted.
Anatra al Balsamico
Braised Sonoma Duck Breast in balsamic vinegar with porcini mushrooms, polenta and sautéed spinach. Duck lovers can rejoice- succulent duck, outstanding flavors, and a particular favorite this evening.
Pesce del Giorno- Fresh Fish of the Day
Pacific King Salmon served with Rock Shrimp in a white wine and butter sauce. The sides of Yukon Gold potato baby carrots, baby turnips and asparagus. Well there was some controversy here since the Pacific King Salmon is not found very often and it was so well prepared and tasty, the fish lovers felt that this was the best entrée. All the more reason to bring more friends or family along and share.
Tuscan heaven on Earth! Lightly whipped mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers, espresso and rum. This was delicious. We had never seen lady fingers that were surrounding the cheese. Truly a unique presentation.
Fig filled pastry "ravioli" in a passion fruit sauce served warm. The lightest yet buttery crust and the tart flavor of fig- excellent combination.
Lemon and orange sorbet was a great palate cleanser. We loved the lemon sorbet!
Fresh fruit and berry tarts in pastry crust. These are mini tarts beautifully presented on the plate. Delicious.
As ever we like to try a number of wines by the glass and here are a few that we recommend.
Castlerock Chardonnay 98- Buttery and paired well with the Mussels.
Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc "98- Dry and paired well with the Smoked Sicilian Swordfish.
Carpene Malvolti Pinot Grigio "98 Italy. Fruity and paired well with the Insalata Mista.
Sterling "Vintners" Merlot 97- Paired well with the Thick Cut Pork Loin.
Joseph Phelps "Le Mistral" 97- Paired well with the Spice Rubbed Chicken.
Sinskey Zinskey 97- This full-bodied Zinfandel paired well with the Duck. It was our favorite this evening.
Tuscany has only been open for a few months and is breathing life into downtown Napa. This Thursday night the place was jumping. The bar was packed with a lively, sophisticated, fun crowd and almost every table in the dining area was full. We did the best we could to taste and tell you as much as possible but we have no choice but to return. The cuisine was great. We will never be able create anything like what Chef, Aram Chakerian has accomplished even with the help of our new Italian cookbook. The service was fast and friendly, you could tell that the staff was proud to be onboard. They made us feel very much "at home".
For a fun night out where you can taste the flavors of Italy (with a California Wine Country Influence) Tuscany is worthy. Come for dinner or to enjoy the bar or for dessert after the movies or theatre, youll be glad you did.