What's the big deal about Bottega?
My wife and I visited the Napa area in late July and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The wine, food, weather, and terrain dazzled our senses. One evening, we had the chance to dine at Bottega. The retaurant's reputation is as high as Michael Chiarrello's, but our experience was disappointing. The place was over-crowded and understaffed, and the food was nothing different from what you would get at a good NYC pasta joint. That's not to say that the food was bad. More to the point, it was uninspired. What really did Bottega in was the service. The staff was inattentive and overtaxed. A well-run restaurant would not overbook itself and punish its customers. I doubt that people in the Bay Area or Napa have to look far for good Italian, so why do they flock to a place that serves uninteresting food and treats its customers like cattle?
Only certain things on the menu are good -- the burrata, bread, dipping sauce, seafood stew (though astronomically overpriced for the cup of soup you get). I love the veranda.
I can't stand Chiarello, though, but maybe that's because I actually know him.
So disappointing to have a wasted meal. I've been to Bottega once, back in February, and the service was awful. Rushed, forgot to take orders, forgot ordered drinks, forgot ordered drinks AGAIN, just really sloppy. We had the grilled octopus starter and a pasta with goat milk braised lamb. Both were very good. The rest of the food was unmemorable. I did think if it hadn't been raining how lovely it would be to sit out on the terrace in those big, comfy-looking seats.
With someone like Chiarello, it is hard to see how the reality could ever top the hype. Friends who know him agree with maria lorraine.
re: Junie D
Here's how our service went: We were told the wait for our table (we had reservations) would be 30 minutes, so we were given a Macaroni Grill style vibrating pager with flashing red LED lights and invited to sit at the bar or on the porch. We sat outside, and waited for a waitress who never looked in our direction once. Ten minutes later, the Chuck E. Cheese pager went off and we were sat at our table. For the next 20 minutes, we tried to get someone to come by to take our order for drink, food, or both. Finally, we flagged down the manager who took my wife's drink order and walked away before taking mine. Just as I was getting ready to walk out and go to find another place to eat, the manager hustled back and apologized for not taking my order. His excuse was that he thought we both wanted a glass of the same wine. Several minutes went by before someone delivered our drinks, but still no waiter or waitress visited our table. Wine finished, we hailed the manager again, who took our dinner orders in a rush. Honestly, my wife enjoyed her prosciutto and melon. I agreed with her. My salad was unmemorable. Personally, I think a restaurant can be judged by it's salads. Flavorful and fresh salads are the hallmark of thoughtful chefs. My salad might have been fresh, but the chef must not have liked the flavor of the greens because he drowned them in other flavors. A salad should be fresh and true to the flavors of its ingredients. This was not. As for our pasta dishes, all I can say is that they were fine. Nothing memorable, but not bad. All in all, this meal was not worth the money or the time.
I visited Bottega right around the same time you did and had an excellent meal. The highlights were probably the grilled squid appetizer and the roasted pork special (slow roasted suckling pig with crispy skin, with a stuffing of chopped pork shoulder and herbs) which were both outstanding. We had a nice burrata app as well and two pastas.
The pastas (gnocchi and pappardelle) were pleasant but nothing super special. The pastas themselves were excellent (the gnocchi were particularly light and fluffy) but the sauces were fine but not memorable.
I guess that generally the food was a little over-salted. But the truth is it was a great meal all around.
We were actually really happy with our service there but I've read enough negative reports on here to think that maybe we just got lucky. I did get the impression that it might be the place where the "in" crowd of locals gets somewhat more/better attention and tourists get the leftovers (although I personally was totally happy with the service as I said).