Napa Valley may be best known for its wine, but gastronomy in the valley is anything but an afterthought. Dining options range from shacks serving gourmet barbecued picnics to luxury resorts providing fine dining and breathtaking views. From hearty Italian cuisine to experimental Japanese creations, Napa Valley caters for visitors of all tastes, offering food experiences that characterize Napa’s northern Californian vibe. Here are 10 unmissable restaurants in the valley.
With three Michelin stars, The Restaurant at Meadowood has pioneered not only a New Napa Cuisine – the title of chef Christopher Kostow’s recently published cookbook – but also a new model of fine dining: the ‘curated singular dining experience’. Describing themselves as a modern American restaurant, the team are passionate about designing bespoke menus for each table of guests, a process which starts from the first conversation at reservation, where guests will be asked about preferences and allergies, continues with the chef then creating a unique menu to provide them with a tailored personal experience. The dialogue between the patron and the restaurant is sustained during the meal itself, with servers and cooks creating a deeply holistic experience. Guests are encouraged to cultivate relationships, direct or otherwise, with the food, the region, the artists who provide the ceramic crockery and the entire team at the restaurant.
Tra Vigne is at the height of neo-Italian dining in the Napa Valley, channelling old world Italy and situated in a stone villa with a tree-lined courtyard. The décor is a fusion between art deco and rustic Italian, and the food reflects the same ethos, with traditional Tuscan dishes brought into modern Napa cuisine through the use of regional ingredients. Menu highlights include the popular hand-pulled mozzarella bruschetta, a variety of handmade pasta and seasonal meat and seafood. The award winning wine list features 520 varieties of the best wines both from California and Italy, including lesser known wines from new and pioneering producers. With a gorgeous setting and hearty Italian food to match, Tra Vigne is ideal for an intimate dinner with friends or loved ones.
Tra Vigne, 1050 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA, USA, +1 707 963 4444
Describing themselves as ‘Sol-ful dining in Napa Valley’, Solbar at the Solage Calistoga Spa uses seasonal ingredients to artfully create dishes, producing both homely soul food and healthy spa food, all with a great deal of heart. The menu is itself delineated along these lines, with hearty meals such as grilled loin and confit shoulder of Sonoma lamb with English peas, Cipollini onions, tarragon honey-bacon carrots and PX sauce, and lighter meals such as warm bulgur pilaf with ras al hanout, roasted cauliflower, cannellini bean hummus, castelvetrano olives and tomato chutney. There is a sprawling outdoor terrace with a chic atmosphere, from which guest can enjoy al fresco dining or a glass of wine at sunset, admiring the view of the surrounding mountains.
Solbar, 755 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA, USA, +1 707 226 0800
The Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, run by the Culinary Institute of America, is inevitably a top-notch affair; the vineyard views are breathtaking, the cuisine inspired, and the hospitality as warm as the atmosphere is cosy. Guests enter the heritage building through a crafted gate, flanked by glimmering lanterns hung on stone walls. The most popular offering is the ‘Lessons in Wine’ tasting flight, which samples the restaurant’s ‘temptations’ paired with varieties of wines. The food is well prepared, with an emphasis on substance rather than minimalistic fancy plates, and all ingredients are sourced to ensure sustainability. The menu offers at least one of each fish, meat, poultry and vegetarian plates, but make sure you save room for one of the heavenly desserts, which include brown butter pecan cake with butterscotch ice cream, brown sugar banana, and chicory glaze, and slow baked chocolate mousse, with ganache, poached raisins and whipped cream.