It was a bit like a dramatic Hollywood movie opening. You know, one of those director-was-overly-cheesy moments that “us” girls like. We’re at the hostess stand, and a gentleman taps me on the shoulder and says (for lack of blog-voice availability, insert deep powerful tone), “Your daughter...she’s very happy. No?” As I turn, all in a moment’s time, the movie aficionado in me squeals quietly. “A pleasure to meet you. Mr. Coppola, right?” What better greeting could I receive at one of the most authentic Italian joints in Napa Valley? “Yes. This is my granddaughter. Soon yours will be as big as she is. Enjoy your time with her, and enjoy your meal,” he says, politely nodding his head as he’s quietly whisked away to his private table in the tree covered courtyard. Ummmm, end cut? Talk about movie-making! THE Mr. Francis Ford Coppola, American film director, producer, screenwriter and integral leader to the wave of new filmmaking just greeted me with a glimpse of parenting advice. I assumed things could only go up from there. Mangia!
It was a Sunday...family day. A time to relax and celebrate our time together. So, it would only be appropriate to enjoy a glass of vino. We were in wine country’s “Italy” after all. Tra Vigne Restaurant is nestled in the heart of Napa Valley’s historic St. Helena. With over twenty-eight years to date, this quintessential dining gem focuses on local and fresh ingredients that reflect the wine country, and it seeks to captivate Tuscany’s renowned culinary blends. Merging new world California cuisine among the vines with old world celebration of art on a plate, the restaurant is defined by rich dishes of meats, cheese, pasta, and farm-to-table highlights with local and worldly wines.
I enjoy wine...a lot. Honestly, I think in a previous life I was an Italian Grandmother, living many a feast with glass in hand. The joy of food and libations is my thing, and I’m guessing for those reading this blog it is the same. SO, as brunch was the current status, I opted for a rosé. It was warm, and with the sun and heat rising through the courtyard dining area, I knew this would start my meal off right. I immediately saw Lucy Rosé on the wine list, a tasty boutique production from winemaker Jeff Pisoni of Pisoni Family in the Santa Lucia Highlands. After making only two barrels, they kindly decided to make more and donate a percentage of the sales to the fight against breast cancer. Of course, always wearing my Feast it Forward hat, THIS was a no-brainer to support. The mission? “Great Story. Great Wine. Great Cause.” You got that right!
Moving on from the drinks, it was time to order. As it was family day, hubby and I brought in our little one to chow down with us. We couldn’t help but start with MINI DOUGHNUTS, Fresh and Hot, Tiramisu Sauce ($9) – completely divine for my husband, myself and, better yet, our toddler was smitten. Thanks to these tasty puffs it allowed a little more time before YouTube on the iPhone would make an appearance. (#MommyProblems)
Next came the LACINATO KALE AND FARRO SALAD with Santon Farms' Strawberries, Gorgonzola, Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette ($12), which made me feel a bit more healthy. Frankly, I’m feeling better about myself and am sympathetic toward my lack of gym visits. It’s probably obvious by now that I don’t frequent the gluten-free circuit. That said, ooey-gooey-carbo happiness follows. We were overjoyed to dig in on the RIGATONI ALLA CARBONARA with Guanciale Bacon, Onions, Organic Eggs, Cracked Pepper, Parmesan ($17) and the SAGE INFUSED PAPPARDELLE with Braised Rabbit Ragu, Wild Mushrooms, Grana Padano ($18). With each bite, it truly took me back to our honeymoon excursion (feast!) in Europe. Fresh and accessible dishes with a focus on celebrating the true culinary delights of our surroundings.
The wine country has a way about it. It brings in new experiences, while visiting old ones. Next time you're visiting up valley, dig in. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Tra Vigne brought happiness on a plate and new memories for a family day.
1050 Charter Oak Avenue
St. Helena, CA 94574
Photo credits: Katie Shaffer