The highlight of Saturday evening was the celebration of our friend’s birthday at Bottega, another bright star in Yountville’s gastronomic lineup. Owned by Food Network personality, Michael Chiarello (also former owner of aforementioned Tra Vigne) Bottega is full of Napa Valley charm with its wood beams and brick walls and an appealing California-Italian inspired menu. Upon arriving at the restaurant, I spotted Mr. Chiarello hosting a cooking demo (I think) at his Napa Style store (furnishings, wine, food, books) across the breezeway. I snapped a distant shot from the Bottega entrance and that was that. Moments later I learned that the the birthday celebrant and her husband had booked a private party and that it would be held inside the Napa Style store, Bottega menu.
Our friends and the Bottega staff planned a very nice party but the food shared the limelight with the birthday girl. I’m a picky Italian food eater and I will admit that most times I’m disappointed by what I get at Italian restaurants. I judge a restaurant by its carbonara or bolognese sauce and if it doesn’t pass, my disappointment is big.
I’m happy to say that Bottega passes with flying colors. Their trenne pasta with bolognese ragu was spot on. They even use porcini mushrooms like I do. The gnocchi was perfect; no other word to describe it and I’m not normally a gnocchi fan. Their calamari with nero aoili? How clever to use squid ink (love it) in the condiment! By the time I got to the generously portioned short rib, I was almost full (the tacos were partly to blame, I suppose); I, of course, made room for the gold-dusted, white-chocolate walled birthday cake. And guess what turned out to be a great surprise?
During dinner, Mr. Chiarello paid a visit. Earlier, I asked the party organizer if it would be possible to get my Bottega book signed to which she nicely said that she would see what she could do. I had my back to the door so imagine my surprise when THE chef himself came up directly behind me! Ever charming, ever gracious, Mr. Chiarello chatted and laughed with us. I’m not normally prone to being star struck (well, except for meeting Pluto and Goofy at Disneyland as a child) but you can see from my big smile that I had fun meeting someone who cooks for me on television everyday. These candid shots are not the best but I appreciate one of my friends quickly grabbing my phone to take them.
There’s something for everyone at Yountville but most of all, there’s a lot of wonderful food. If you haven’t tried Bottega, I highly recommend you do so soon. I can’t wait until my next visit.
Note: My apologies for the poor-quality, camera phone images. Will remember to take my real camera next time!