Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Monday, April 7, 2014

southern italian homage at oenotri in napa

Napa Valley is home to the most amazing wines in the US (and arguably the world), but it is also home to some of the best restaurants such as French Laundry, Bottega, Bouchon, and Restaurant at Meadowood. Those were a bit too expensive for our taste. However on our Babymoon trip, Sheila and I did partake in a foodie excursion that included Oenotri, an Italian restaurant in Downtown Napa.

Oenotri is the work of Tyler Rodde, a native of Napa Valley, where his southern Italian establishment features a daily changing menu driven by a local, fresh, and in season ingredients. All breads and pastas are handmade onsite and all ingredients, including the olive oil, come from Oenotri's own farm in Napa Valley. The beautiful pizza oven is a wood burning Acino imported from Naples! Salivating now?

The interior of the restaurant is warm and inviting - large natural wood tables and comfy colorful seats are scattered throughout the open plan dining area. The kitchen is in plain view of the dining area so all patrons can see the action unfold. It can get a bit loud inside, so conversations tend to be at high volumes. Our waiter came over a few mins after we were seated and took the time to explain the entire menu, which features several vegetarian dishes. We eventually decided to share the asparagus antipasti, margherita pizza, and ricotta & spinach ravioli.

Chopped asparagus with mint, and parmigiano-regiano - a cold antipasti of asparagus, hand ripped mint and grated parmigiano. The asparagus was crisp and fresh, blanched and shocked to retain it's earthy flavor. The mint provided the freshness and balance. The parmigiano was flavorful but not overpowering, and provided the natural saltiness. This was a dish where you could taste each individual  ingredient with great balance. At $11 you are paying for the restaurant's location and it's organic mantra, but it's worth it.

Ricotta and spinach ravioli with saba and fava leaves - stuffed pasta filled with creamy ricotta and earthy spinach topped with a light drizzle of olive oil and saba (aged sweat balsamic vinaigrette). This is a dish that could come off as heavy, but not at Oenotri. The made to order pasta was smooth to the taste, light, and pillowy. Each bite left us clamoring for more, the saba drizzle on top provided a really nice sweetness to the dish and the fava leaves were a pleasant earthy surprise (more common would be sage or basil). Our only complaint is that at $16 this dish is a bit expensive for the portion size. Either of us could have finished the dish on our own and wouldn't have been full.

Margherita pizza cooked in a wood burning oven - mozzarella di bufala, san marzano tomato sauce, oregano, and olive oil. The 10" pizza came out piping hot with a lightly charred crust. I'll start by saying it was good, but not memorable. The best part was the crust - crispy but chewy which is a sign of great gluten balance. The cheese came across a bit too salty for our palate. The tomato sauce was fresh, but lacked flavor depth. I for one prefer the margherita at Delfina, Keste, Co, and Zero Zero over Oenotri. At $14 this was on the high-side for such a small pizza. I think next time we'll try one of their veggie farm inspired creations.

Oenotri definitely hits the mark for local, fresh, inviting Italian cuisine. Even for Napa Valley, it's not a cheap dinner for two our bill came to $70 with drinks. Although they are known for pizza, we both found the antipasti and pasta to be the stars. The ambience and atmosphere is fun for large groups; and we'd certainly come back with friends. Check out this spot if you're craving authentic southern Italian fare in Napa Valley. We give Oenotri a solid 7 out of 10. 

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