Ca' Momi Osteria: Downtown Napa Location Shines Bright
One of my favorite things about life in California wine country is the high level of cuisine to which our local chefs adhere. When a new restaurant opens up, it's often a riveting experience for the palate. Ca' Momi Osteria in downtown Napa, having opened in October 2015, is a perfect illustration of this.
I've been a fan of Ca' Momi ever since I first ate at their Enoteca location in the Oxbow several years back. The new Osteria location is perfectly nestled on First Street between Coombs and Main, and finds itself ideally poised to offer locals and visitors what they do best—dish up an obsessively authentic taste of Italy.
With the opening of the Osteria, the Enoteca's style of dining has shifted to suit the energetic, in-and-out pace of the Oxbow. At the new Ca' Momi Osteria, however, a much fuller menu fits the bill for this upscale restaurant.
The extensive menu includes their classic antipasti dishes, Vera Napoletana Pizza (VPN), a wide array of pasta, hearty portions of thick-cut meats and fish, plenty of side dishes and of course, a decadent, in-house made collection of desserts. There's a wine list that includes Ca' Momi wines and carefully selected, classic Italian varietals from Italian producers. They've even got a garden-to-glass cocktail program. The Spritz is subtly sweet with essence of orange peel, while the Amore Amarao brings together a nice balance of citrus, sweet flavors and bitters. To top it off, they're even crafting their own beers. The lager is light and creamy with just a touch of hoppiness, and for those looking for something a bit stronger, the IPA with pine, subtle citrus and crisp, hoppy notes is a good choice.
The restaurant is located in a historic, 19th century brick building; vaulted ceilings and an open floor plan draw your attention to the pleasant buzz about the restaurant. Rustic, warm and inviting, Ca' Momi Osteria features a natural environment of distressed wood, textured brick, open-pipes, Edison light bulbs and succulents planted in mason jars atop the thick, wood tables. There's an Old World style meets New World hipster vibe that seems fitting for the authentic Italian cuisine, which is presented in true Napa fashion by Chef and Owner Dario De Conti. Comfortable seating and gentle lighting set the ambiance.
Fresh and full of flavor, the Insalata di Polpo offers tender octopus bites marinated in lemon, herbs and salt, plated alongside textured, olive oil-smothered potatoes—it's simple and delicious. The Animelle Al Marsala provides a serious amount of depth and rich flavors for those looking to start their meal in a savory fashion; pan-seared Sunfed Ranch sweetbreads are tender and juicy in their Marsala and sage butter coating—possessing an almost meaty quality.
Of course, you can't go wrong with the Formagii or Salumi plate—especially if you're ordering wine by the glass and want to do some playful pairing.
There's a couple of different options for pizza lovers at the Osteria. De Conti still chefs up his Vera Napoletana Pizza, but he's also doing something new at the Osteria—Montanara, which is fried pizza that he tells me is even more authentic than VPN. I recommend trying them both. The VPN is of course still cooked in a wood burning oven for the allotted 90 seconds at 900 degrees; it's edges are always crispy with a foldable center and deliciously dotted with toppings. The Porcini e Tartufo, covered in porcini mushrooms over a white truffle cream sauce, is perfectly rich and delicate at the same time.
The Montanara, De Conti's fried pizza, is out of this world fantastic. If you have never tasted fried pizza, consider yourself lucky if you get to enjoy De Conti's expression, because he is a master. The dough is deep fried and then topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil; then it's wood-fired for only 30 seconds, just enough time to rid the dough of excess oil from frying, and to melt the mozzarella in harmony with the tomato sauce and fresh basil. Amazingly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, the fried pizza dough takes flavor and texture to a whole other level; there is a depth of richness from the frying that brings incredible pleasure to the taste buds. I am a huge fan and will certainly be going back for more.
The Osteria's pasta selection is a tour de force. Having grown up in an Italian family, I get excited when I see dishes like Tortellini in Brodo and Tagliatelle con I Funghi di Bosco. Where else can you feast on pasta from so many different Italian regions in one place? De Conti remains committed to offering a taste of Italy with their regional-specific menu that dances its way across Italy, dish by dish.
The Tortellini in Brodo is a brilliant dish. I love the way the simple and flavorful broth juxtaposes the richly-packed tortellini; tasty little bites of al-dente dough folded around a prosciutto, mortadella and pork filling are richly balanced by the light and airy, but still with depth of flavor bone broth.
I also really enjoyed the Tagliatelle con I Funghi di Bosco. Always cooked in a succulent al-dente fashion, the fresh tagliatelle is neatly dressed in a silky layer of cream and parmesan. Mouthwatering flavors overtake the palate with each bite of earthy forest mushroom and sensuously textured pasta.
When it comes to meat and fish in most upscale restaurants, portion sizes tend to be small; perhaps that is for the better, but I don't think anyone is ready to complain when you order from the most expensive part of the menu and the waiter sets down a chunky plate of meat or fish. You will be happy to know that the Osteria is dishing up plentiful portions sizes.
I was very impressed by the Stinco al Forno Con Patate—a big Napa Grass Farmer pork shank that was succulently roasted in the wood-oven with heirloom potatoes in a Nica Pinot Grigio, rosemary, sage and juniper rub. Fall off the bone tender, the pork shank possesses an array of mouthwatering smoky, char, and wine- and herb-infused flavors.
On dessert: When you visit the Osteria, save room for dessert. I promise you will regret it if you don't. Homemade Cannoli with crispy shells and silky ricotta, chocolate chips and decadent, candied orange peel really hit the spot; they remind me of the cannoli my grandfather used to bring home from our local Italian market when I was a child. For those who are true cannoli connoisseurs, you will be happy to know that De Conti gets the extremely fresh ricotta from Bellwether Farms in Petaluma; it mimics true Italian cannoli in that it is always made with the freshest and most local ricotta available.
A couple of other desserts I would recommend are the Miellefogile con Crema al Ciocclato and Housemade Organic Gelato. The Miellefogile con Crema al Ciocclato consists of airy puff pastry stacked with chocolate cream in decadent layers; the sweetness of the chocolate cream is sophisticated and not over the top, while the crispy pastry melts in your mouth after just a few seconds—it's like tasting a slice of heaven. Certainly not to be missed, the Housemade Organic Gelato served with biscotti-like lavender shortbread cookies brings together crunchy and silky textures, as well as vanilla and floral flavors, making for a delightful tasting experience.
Pair these fantastic desserts with a glass of Ca Momi's 2012 Passito, made from dried grapes, and the finish to your dining experience will be one you can't wait to tell your friends about. The low viscosity Passito, which is full of sweet honeysuckle, white flowers and white peach notes, really is a nice culmination to a tasty evening.
(Thank you to Ca' Momi for providing the photos to accompany this article.)
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