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Bottega - Yountville


samgiovese
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Dined at Bottega in Yountville last night, and if the food, vibe and patronage are signs of things to come, Michael Chiarello has a sure winner on his hands.

Located in the historic V Marketplace (formerly Vintage 1870 and historically known as the Groezinger Winery), Bottega is the largest restaurant in the Napa Valley, seating, I believe, 160, and, along with the flagship NapaStyle store located nearby, has become the lynchpin in the up-scaling of Yountville's premiere tourist complex.

There are 2 outdoor fireplaces with comfortable seating on the outdoor patio surrounding the restaurant. The main entry is via the courtyard directly opposite NapaStyle, and you are immediately swept up into the lively bar scene to your left as you enter. There are 2 dining rooms - one directly behind the hostess stand containing the exhibition kitchen, carefully shielded from the diners by opaque glass partitions, and one to the left of the hostess stand and the main room that has a wonderful patio view. Chiarello's designer managed to maintain the charm of the 140 year old structure, but also filled it with modern decor that gives a very hip vibe. We were seated immediately and offered house-filtered water, still or sparkling. We were then brought crusty french bread with a parmesan-olive oil spread, one of the condiments that Chiarello has for sale in his stores.

After ordering two glasses of sparkling wine (Schramsburg NV, $18), we were delivered a gift from the kitchen, consisting of house-made salumi, house-made gardeniera, pumpkin frittata and an herb based fritter. This is a plate that should have sold for $20 - $25, but was being brought to all tables as a gift - VERY nice touch.

Chef Chiraello and his staff worked very hard in choosing their wine list, tasting, according to the wine director, over 500 wines. The list was not developed to impress; rather, they chose what they liked, and they did a fabulous job. We opted for a 2006 Staglin "Stagliano" Sangiovese, a wine we have enjoyed before, but one that has such limited production, it is virtually impossible to find. At $130, it was a steal! All wines on the list are priced similarly, with markups well below averages in the valley. Admittedly, $130 is pricey, and there are MANY other wines available for much, much less. Again, Chef Chiarello's long connections here have resulted in the ability to obtain some wines that can't be found outside of tasting rooms and mailing lists.

The menu is divided into Appetizers, Antipasti, Pastas, Second plates, and Contorni. After consuming our generous gift from the chef, we opted for an appetizer and pasta. I had the Octopus, and my wife opted for the polenta with wild mushrooms. Both were excellent.

For the pasta, my wife had spaghetti with clams and sausage, and I opted for the signature dish of penne with rabbit sugo. Again, two home runs!

During the evening, Chef Chiarello is highly visible, checking on tables, greeting guests, and in general charming everyone. He is a very friendly, welcoming individual, and it shows in everything he does. Aside from the size of the space, one might feel you are at his house enjoying dishes he whipped up just for you.

We opted out of dessert, but are returning on New Years Eve (if not before), and will report further after that experience. At first blush, however, this appears to be a welcome addition to the Yountville dining scene, which has been sorely lacking in quality rustic Italian fare, and will become one of our go-to places in the Valley.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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  • 4 weeks later...

Another wonderful experience at Bottega in Yountville last night (New Years Eve). We were seated at what we thought to be a fantastic table, right near the exhibition kitchen. For foodies like us, it was a real treat to be able to watch a master chef and his staff at work. Absent was the usual chaos one might expect at a restaurant only 3 weeks past its opening, and on New Years Eve, to boot! There was an almost zen-like atmosphere permeating the kitchen as Michael, his chefs and line cooks proceeded filling diners' orders in a seemingly well-orchestrated ballet. Michael even had time to come out on the floor a couple of times to schmooze with the guests.

We began with 2 glasses of NV Schramsburg sparkling wine ($18) as we perused the menus. After much deliberation and negotiation, we decided on 2 appetizers - Angry Hopper Shrimp with Toscanello White Bean Passatina ($13) for me and Polenta Under Glass with carmelized wild mushrooms ($12) for her. The polenta was a repeat from our first visit, but my wife enjoyed it so much, she couldn't resist. The shrimp were a first for me. There were 4 plump, juicy shrimp with just the right amount of "anger" to them. Next, we decided to split a pasta as a mid-course, and chose the Ricotta Gnocchi with salsa pomodoro alla nonna ($14). OMG!!! Some gnocchi can resemble lead sinkers, but not these heavenly pillows. They literally melted in your mouth, and I think I had the lion's share of the order. For our entrees, my wife had the Grilled Swordfish alla Barcaiola ($24), with ancient grain polenta and celery and herb insalatina (outstanding), and I had the Garlic Roasted Dungeness Crab with crab-saffron aioli and bruschetta ($28). This was a whole, cracked dungeness crab wood-oven roasted with garlic. I was able to eat about 1/2, as it was HUGE and DELICIOUS! We accompanied the meal with a 2006 Pisoni Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia highlands in Monterey County ($100), a splurge, but hey...it was New Years Eve.

We finished with a plate of heavenly Italian cookies ($6), and I had a glass of Robert Pecota Muscat Canelli ($13).

Quite truthfully, I did not expect Michael to be in the house on New Years Eve, but he was definitely there and DEFINITELY IN CHARGE. We even saw him ferrying chairs from one part of the dining room to another at one point in the evening. This is truly HIS HOUSE.

Truly a wonderful addition to the Yountville and Napa dining scene. He's setting the bar high for other establishments here in the valley, and chefs are going to have to start bringing their "A" game in order to keep up.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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This sounds like a real winner. I'll just have to plan another trip up north.

Quite truthfully, I did not expect Michael to be in the house on New Years Eve, but he was definitely there and DEFINITELY IN CHARGE. We even saw him ferrying chairs from one part of the dining room to another at one point in the evening. This is truly HIS HOUSE.

Why didn't you expect chef Michael to be there on NYE? Is Bottega good when he's not there on his day off (if he does take a day off)?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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This sounds like a real winner. I'll just have to plan another trip up north.

Why didn't you expect chef Michael to be there on NYE? Is Bottega good when he's not there on his day off (if he does take a day off)?

Truthfully, because of his "celebrity" status, I expected him to be there during the opening week, and then turn it over to his staff, making "guest appearances". Happily, I was WAY off base. As I noted, this is REALLY HIS restaurant, and he is carefully monitoring everything that comes out of the kitchen, if not cooking it himself. It's really nice to be proven wrong in this case!

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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