Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pizzeria Tra Vigne

There is a restaurant in St. Helena called Tra Vigne. I pass it every day on Highway 29, and considering my love of good Italian food (and the fact that it is extremely hard to find good Italian food), I've always been curious. I've heard it's good... it has a fairly established reputation, with associated "Tra Vigne" cookbooks and whatnot.

However, it's a typical Napa affair, requiring a little bit of planning -- a reservation and the willingness to spend some money. On the other hand, Tra Vigne has a sister restaurant right next door, a very casual affair: Pizzeria Tra Vigne. Pizzeria Tra Vigne bills itself as a casual spot, a locals joint... and the weird part is, this is true! It's hard to find local, casual spots that are still, at the same time, classy and have a little bit of sophistication.

But here we are: it's a weeknight and I showed up fairly early for dinner after Sarah offered to pick me up from my work, and this was on the way home and we were hungry. No reservation needed, we walked in and picked a table. By the end of our meal, the place was teeming with plenty of local families bringing their two or three boys each (how are they all boys???), who proceeded to wolf down slice after slice and bowls of pasta, to boot.
The focus here is, of course, pizza... thin-crust, brick oven Neapolitan style pizza, to be exact. And these pizzas have pretty reasonable prices. In addition, there are some interesting salads as well as a few other casual Italian fares: fried calamari, pasta, etc.

The typical toppings are all available, but what stood out to me are the special ones -- the one that most caught my attention was the "funghi" with crimini, shiitake, and beach mushrooms with fontina cheese and truffle oil... however, once I saw the "Positano" I knew that would be the one we'd have to get: crecsenza cheese, sauteed gulf shrimp, scallions, and fried lemons. Sarah is a lemon fanatic. It was pretty good -- the fried lemons on top are definitely what kept it interesting, though my curiosity for the funghi is still there for a return visit...

We got a large but, being a thin crust pizza, didn't know if that would be enough (it turns out that it definitely would have), so we also ordered a "piadine" as a starter. These piadine are like salads, but served on an oven-baked flatbread (basically, the pizza dough without anything on it). We got the Rocca, with roasted turkey, applewood bacon, field greens, feta, red onion, and cilantro aioli. It's a pretty nice alternative to a salad when you want more protein (from the meat) and more starchy bread (always good).

I'm not a big fan of big families with kids running everywhere, so I didn't really dig that vibe, but the food was good, the atmosphere casual, walk-in ability nice, and prices reasonable, so I'm sure I'll be back.

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