19 March 2008

Dinner at UVA Trattoria, Napa, CA

After a day of wine-tasting and sightseeing in the Napa Valley, we checked into our Bed-and-Breakfast in the town of Napa. Though we have visited the Napa Valley many times, we’d never stayed there. As we considered where to stay, wavered between staying in a quaint little wine town like Yountsville or in a bigger town like Napa where we might find a little nightlife. We opted for Napa.

Our lodging for the night was the Blackbird Inn. We checked in, got settled in, then went downstairs to enjoy the nightly wine reception with the other guests. Then we strolled downtown to find someplace to eat.

We had done a little research on line, so we weren’t wandering aimlessly. We read about two places that advertised live music, so we walked to both, checking out other places along the way. We were surprised how lifeless downtown Napa was fairly early in the evening. Nearly all of the shops were closed and there weren’t many people on the street. Most of the restaurants though were reasonably busy. I read at least one other travel guide lamenting the fact that the town shuts down in the evening; I’m sure our experience at least partly can be explained by the fact that early March is not prime tourist season for Napa.

One place we checked out seemed promising for the music, but it was mostly a burger bar, and that’s not what we wanted to eat. Across the street was a tapas restaurant. We like tapas and we considered eating there and then going back to the bar for music. But before committing, we decided to walk to the other end of Main Street to check out UVA Trattoria.

We knew almost immediately as we walked up that this is where we would spend the evening. Warm, golden light spilled out of the door and the front window as we walked up. The décor was comfortable and inviting. The walls were covered with photos of sports figures and movie stars (a common theme for casual Italian restaurants, I’ve noticed). A jazz trio was performing in front of the dining room and bar. This is just what we were looking for.

We asked for a table where we could see the musicians and were told it would be a short wait. Really short. We ordered drinks. I’d had about enough wine for the day, so I ordered a martini. Linda had a glass of California Viognier. Before our drinks were delivered, our table was ready for us.

UVA (it usually appears in all capital letters) has a very varied menu. You can get pizza or pasta or casual dinners, or you can order a full dinner including nightly specials. We decided to go with the specials.

My meal was seared diver scallops served on linguine pasta. The sauce had toasted garlic, lemon, and Calabrian chilis. The dish was topped with tender fava leaves. I thought it was fantastic. The scallops were prepared perfectly – very tender and moist, not at all rubbery. The linguine and sauce were very nice together. The lemon was very refreshing and the chilis were very flavorful without being the least bit hot. At first I thought the fava leaves were beet leaves (and maybe they were, but the menu said they were fava leaves).

Linda had the fish special. It was grilled swordfish with a warm frisee salad, crab meat, walnuts, radicchio and candied kumquats. The piece of fish was cut quite thin. But it was very carefully done so that it was cooked through (as Linda likes it) but still moist and tender. The frisee salad resembled a bed of wilted spinach. The accompaniments all were good, but the highlight were the candied kumquats.

Both meals were fantastic. We savored the flavors as the trio played a series of jazz standards. We paid our check just as the band finished its second set, and we walked back to the Blackbird to rest up for another day of our Northern California vacation.

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