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Jun 8, 2008 03:38 PM

Looking for Italian Restaurant in Napa

I'm looking for an italian restaurant for dinner in Napa on June 13th. We'll be spending the day starting in the north at Chateau Montelena and then heading south to visit Old Faithful Geyser, Sterling Vineyards, Cakebread Winery, Rutherford Hill Vineyard (for a picnic lunch), & Frog’s Leap vineyards.

Would prefer a place between Frog's leap and the road back to San Francisco. Looking for something authentic with great ambiance. Price doesn't matter. Thanks!

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  1. I can't say there are amazing Italian rsetaurants in Napa Valley. The best I can suggest is Bistro Don Giovanni on HWY 29 just north of the town of Napa. But I would not say it is amazing. Also there is Tra Vigne too on HWY 29, but in Saint Helena. Again, not amazing. I live in the valley and love Italian food and miss it....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Madge

      Madge is right. The restaurants she mentioned have an Italian influence, but are mostly Cal-Mediterranean. If Italian is a must, you could head to Piccolino's Italian Cafe which is in downtown Napa. Slightly authentic, I guess, but hardly exceptional. Better than Piccolino's is Uva Trattoria Italiana which is probably the best Italian in the city (although it still has a Cal-Med twist). I don't think you would be disappointed there.

      Piccolino's Italian Cafe
      1385 Napa Town Center, Napa, CA 94559

      Uva Trattoria
      1040 Clinton St, Napa, CA 94559

    2. links.

      Pizzeria Tra Vigne
      1016 Main St, Saint Helena, CA 94574

      Tra Vigne Restaurant
      1050 Charter Oak, St. Helena, CA 94574

      Bistro Don Giovanni
      4110 Howard Ln, Napa, CA

      1. I actually disagree with the earlier posts. I think Bistro Don Giovanni is terrific. It is lively, beautiful outside seating on the deck and, though the menu may stray somewhat from authentic Italian, there are some really good pastas and risotto. I don't think you will be disappointed there and it's easy access to the freeway to boot.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bobpantzer

          I also think it's wonderful, and I've been there a lot. Great apps and platter of fritto misto.

        2. I'll vote for Bistro Don Giovanni as your best bet. Not amazing, not totally authentic, but very good Cal-Ital. I like the dining room.

          As a die-hard Uva fan who ate there religiously for years, I am sad to say that it has been disappointing the last 6 or so visits. The specials, which used to be the highlight of the menu, have been inconsistent and sometimes just off. Hope others will report better recent experiences.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Junie D

            I have to agree with poster bobpantzer and say that Don Gio's is terrific. It is your best bet for Italian food in town, although I would definitely not classify many of the dishes as "authentic Italian." Uva has declined GREATLY and I would not suggest it.

          2. Bistro Don Giovanni sounds like the best overall experience for you. Solid food, good crowd vibe, nice outdoor setting too. But it's big and loud though. A bit of where the pretty people go.

            There are a surprisingly large number of Italian restaurants in the city of Napa although none of them particularly stand out. Just in case you don't want to go with the safe pick, there's Tuscany (we like the stuff off the grill better, large wall windows that open up during the spring/summer), Allegria (food on the heavier side; you'll be tasting it for a while but sometimes you're in the mood for that kind of thing. Cool bank interior with the high ceilings), Uva (usually live music and also offers half-plates which are great if you want to try out a lot of different dishes), Villa Romano (food on the heavier side but quiet dining area like eating in a bed and breakfast way down south on Soscol on your way out to SF), Piccolino's (least favorite).


            13 Replies
            1. re: napaeats

              I totally agree with Don G. We had a wonderful dinner there too long ago.

              1. re: napaeats

                Steve, I agree with your Don G. rec, but the rest.....I don't understand.

                What is it about the food at Tuscany (terrible, just terrible), Allegria (a single good report among my crowd), Villa Romano and Piccolino's that would make you recommend them?

                Seems like you merely made a list of Italian restos that exist, rather than making recommendations. Tell me what dishes are well-prepared and well-executed at these restos because I'm very confused to see them even mentioned on a Chowhound board.

                Uva is the only one of the group that's decent, but reports above say they have gone downhill. I've been there lately for jazz and after-dinner drinks but haven't dined there since my last two dinners seemed expensive for what we got. But I used to love it.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Swell. Here are Steve's links to his reviews for two of the restaurants. At the very least it should be acknowledged he as not only eaten at these restaurants, but eaten there multiple times.

                  One hopes he will report on the board again.

                  1. re: rworange

                    That's ok; there wasn't any offense taken. Some people have different expectations of things (and it is an Internet forum after all.)

                    Maria, I already mentioned that BDG was the best pick of the lot. The rest aren't recommendations. I'm just tossing some others out there with some distinguishing bits in case the original poster was interested in something else. I reckon the original poster is smart enough to research the others restaurants through Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc. if something sounds interesting enough.

                    Some of those restaurants have been around for a while in a pretty competitive space. Some of them are obviously stronger than others, but if you don't think that any of them have ever put together a well-prepared or well-executed dish and that they shouldn't even be mentioned on a Chowhound board, maybe you and your crowd just have really high standards. But generally speaking, I prefer more information to less to make decisions so I give out more information rather than less.


                    1. re: napaeats

                      Steve, I just want you to know I appreciate your response. I know you're new to Chowhound and want to direct attention towards your blog.

                      I guess we differ in our approach to Chowhounding. I’m surprised you included those restaurants in your Chowhound post above when you yourself don’t recommend them. In this case, more information wasn’t better information, or more helpful information.

                      It’s not that I’m against the mostly standardized Italian-American fare that these places serve, food that could be found anywhere across the United States, save for a few California touches.

                      It’s that this non-descript food isn’t what I consider Chowhound food. My sense of Chowhounds is that they want to know what’s really good, what’s noteworthy, what’s worth seeking out – not merely what exists.

                      And if, among those restos you listed but don’t recommend, there are some “distinguishing bits,” as you say, then what are they?

                      If one of them producers a killer lasagna, but that’s all they do well, then tell me/us that. I can go and have that dish with a glass of wine for dinner at the bar, but I won’t take my family or guests to that restaurant, and I won’t order anything else.

                      Living in Napa Valley, I will admit to being particularly sensitive to others guiding tourists – and actually everyone – to a restaurant that isn’t a good use of their dining dollars. That’s another crime when food is bad: cost. Food at Tuscany, just to use one example, is not cheap, and the quality is terrible. So it’s not only that food is disappointing, it’s that it costs a lot too!

                      [insert continuation of Groucho Marx joke here]

                      It’s obvious you have a level of discernment in recommending Bistro Don Giovanni and un-recommending the other restaurants. Please share more of that. It actually was fun to disagree with you to find out we actually agreed -- I'm laughing now! And I really laughed at your Kobe beef line on another thread. Hope to see you around town.


                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I'm glad this worked out. ... and I learned at Piccolino's I should skip the bread ... and dessert ... and maybe Piccolino's in general.

                        The thing is that posts are never only for the original poster. There are lots of us following to find out what is good ... and bad.

                        I guess like everyone's taste is different, everyone's approach to chowhounding is different.

                        I'm also in more info is better camp. My approach is ... hey ... nobody mentioned this place ... let me go in and try it.

                        I can't tell you the number of times on the board I haven't reported some disappointing meal when someone else posts about how awful it was. Maybe if I had posted, I could have saved someone else an indigestible experience.

                        If the OP is the type that would explore something no one mentioned ... if that poster wasn't sold on Don Giovanni ... at least if they are driving around Napa they know not only which restaurants to consider but also which restaurants might not be worth their while.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I will share that the Chowhounding philosophy -- as written by Chowhound -- is one that I adopted years before Chowhound existed. And that is: to seek out and talk about the best food -- not merely what's available. I know that Steve may not know this because he's new to Chowhound. I won't paraphrase any's Chowhound's version of what Chowhounding is:


                          "Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure. They despise hype. And while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can't be fooled by flash.

                          If you, too, fret endlessly about making every bite count; if you'd grow weak from hunger rather than willingly eat something less than delicious, this place is for you! Welcome to our community. Let's talk. Let's swap tips.

                          You needn't be an expert to participate. If you're less food-obsessed than the rest of us, but have a yen for egg creams, gazpacho, or Quisp Cereal, let the resident hounds guide you to the best stuff. "

                          Happy Chowhounding all!

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Ohmygod, there is a MANIFESTO???? Sounds so subversive!

                            1. re: Carrie 218

                              It was ... eating only what is delicious and not being told what is acceptable to eat ...

                              "Foodies eat where they're told. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure."

                              Unfortunately to find that perfect kiss of the princely meal, you sometimes eat a lot of frogs ... and warn other chowhounds where the warts are.

                              Not that there aren't tasty frogs ...

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          No worries. There isn't an Internet forum out there where everybody sings from the same choir book in the same key. Passion and diversity are good, even if there's a style or standards clash, so long as there is a common goal. Take what you like and leave the rest.

                          The quick distinguishing bits for the rest of the restaurants that came to mind are pretty much what I have in parenthesis (I suppose that's commentary in itself.)

                          NinaW over at SweetNapa absolutely detested Bistro Don Giovanni. Either she had a really bad meal, or she just has very different tastes. I still like reading her stuff though.


                          1. re: napaeats

                            Hilarious. Great link.

                            The blogger you link to has a chocolate company that got a small thumbs up on Chowhound.

                        3. re: napaeats

                          I, for one, really appreciate your posts. Pickings are slim and I thought you laid out the options rather nicely. Unless you're clairvoyant, scary thought, you couldn't get any more specific in addressing the OP's query.

                          Keep doing what you're doing . . . there's always more than one OPINION out there

                          1. re: samse

                            Just a reminder, folks, to please keep things friendly and on topic. If you want to continue the discussion of Italian restaurants in Napa, this is the right place, but general discussion of posting style and the manifesto belongs on Site Talk. And while you're welcome to disagree with someone's recommendations, please don't tell them what or how to post -- we welcome people with all sorts of posting styles on Chowhound.