I don’t make nearly enough trips to Napa as I would like considering the large number of fantastic fine dining restaurants there. Usually, when my dad is in town we will go and our trips often have the same curve. We drive up, go straight to Grgich, do the special reserve tasting and then head to Tra Vigne, drink Rombauer, eat fantastic food and then drive home.
When my friend Lauren came to town earlier this month, we took her for wine tasting in Napa and while we did hit Grgich, we also managed a few other wineries and even found Camus where we were rejected for not having an appointment. Which turned out to be ok since we wanted to drink Conundrum which Camus doesn’t even sell at their winery (but is made by them, but their name is not on the label). Despite trying to get reservations at several other restaurants, we ultimately and happily ended up at Tra Vigne for lunch. Not only did it provide for a fantastic meal, it afforded us the opportunity to drink Conundrum which they had on their wine list. It was the perfect, crisp, cool wine for a warm waning day of summer.
I have now eaten at Tra Vigne more than a half dozen times including birthday lunches and other special occasions. The food never disappoints me, in fact it usually results in us feigning that we are falling out of our chairs and rolling our eyes back in our heads in delight. And this occasion was no different.
We decided that we could not live without the fresh mozzarella prepared al minuto. The waiter brought it out, gave me just enough time to get my camera ready (ok, he was hamming it up and advising me on angles for the best light) and cut into the glistening white orb which was tender and flesh beneath the knife. He laid each delicate slice on a perfectly toasted slice of crusty bread and pushed the separate plate of colorful, intensely fresh, plump heirloom tomato slices into the middle of the table. While the combination of cheese and bread is havoc on my delicate gluten intolerant digestive system, it was worth it. I took the slice in my mouth, my teeth sliding through the warm mozzarella like butter, into the tomatoes which exploded with flavor, into the crisp bread whose crunchiness first resisted than gave way to a warm but tender center. The hints of basil, salt, pepper and olive oil that I had splash over mine commingled and built a complex flavor profile that made us all giggle with delight. It is not a profound or new combination of flavors, but each element spoke volumes of the care that took to create it: the cheese artisan, the baker and farmer all presenting their best in that simple bite.
MOZZARELLA CHEESE “AL MINUTO” -hand made at the moment ordered, grilled bruschetta, paesano sicilian olive oil
After that brilliant start to our meal, my sister and I decided to share the Roasted Padron Peppers and Smoke and Braised Beef Short Ribs. We have had both before and frankly, not just once. They are that good. The meat is incredibly flavorful and so tender, I swear it could fall apart just using telepathy. Lauren tucked in to a plate of the SAGE INFUSED PAPPARDELLE and braised rabbit ragu. We did our best to keep the Peter Rabbit jokes to a minimum, but after a few bites, no one was thinking about fuzzy little bunny rabbits, only tasty morsel of tender meat in a rich, bright ragu.
In the case of Tra Vigne, I think these photos speak volumes of the quality of the food. The food at Tra Vigne is more than just a feast for the eyes, it is even better tasting than it is looking! I highly recommend Tra Vigne for a post-wine tour bite, a special occasion or even AS the special occasion. It is well worth it.
WOOD OVEN ROASTED PADRON PEPPERS -napa valley olive oil, sea salt
SAGE INFUSED PAPPARDELLE -braised rabbit ragu, wild mushrooms, grana padano
SMOKED AND BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS -soft polenta, natural jus, horseradish gremolata
All Photos Copyrighted by Devon Crosby-Helms