Known for exquisite desserts and homemade pastas that incorporate fresh local ingredients, Cucina Paradiso bills itself as a "ristorante Italiano with the true Italian flavor," and few would dispute the claim. As evidence, its main course options include roasted duck breast, veal scaloppini, and grilled rack of lamb with roasted bell pepper sauce. Praised by the local press, the strip mall eatery also features a surprisingly impressive repertoire of Californian and Tuscan wines and a pleasant patio.
In a sleepy town like Geyserville, expectations about finding an elegant Italian eatery may not run high; however, this addition to the local scene goes a long way toward raising spirits. Indeed, owners took the circa 1902 building and turned it into one of the town's cozier settings, complete with dark wood furniture, leaded glass windows, a fireplace, and an enchanting patio. Santi specializes in old-fashioned Italian-American standards like homemade spaghetti in Calabrese-style red sauce and asparagus-and-sausage-stuffed lasagna with mushrooms. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Tucked inside the North Block Hotel at the northern end of Yountville's main drag, Redd Wood share's the hotel's cool, industrial-chic aesthetic. Walk inside, order a prosecco and you could be in a back alley in Rome. The meatballs are the standout dish here--meltingly tender, served with a savory tomato sauce and slices of buttery, garlicky bread. The pizzas are good, too, blistery, with vibrant toppings like pickled peppers, sausage and rapini. Sit out in the courtyard and while away the afternoon taking in sun, sipping local wine and sharing pies straight out of the oven.
Local Expert tip: Ask to take a peek at the back room behind the bar where they age their house made charcuterie.
Known as one of Napa Valley's better pizza joints, this friendly, downtown establishment is a great place to take the entire family. Specialty thin-crust pies are hand-tossed and range from the Verde version, which features spinach and ricotta, to selections fancied up with fennel sausage, roasted garlic, basil, and fresh tomato. Beer and wine are served.
Sister to San Francisco's Scala Bistro, Don Giovonni earns high marks for a laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere where the emphasis is on good food and wine rather than flashy decor. Delightful dishes include braised lamb shanks with Tuscan bean ragout, Sonoma duck bolognese with provolone cheese and sage, and handmade pizzas prepared in a wood-burning oven. Patio dining is available. Reservations are strongly recommended.
The secret is out about the restaurant in this quaint cottage, which serves some of the Sonoma Valley's tastiest Northern Italian fare. Although the understated decor hardly does justice to rotisserie chicken, artful risottos, and homemade osso bucco, Citti has managed to build quite a loyal following. People wanting to add an extra element of romance to the experience may opt for a table on the charming patio. Reservations are suggested.
While the Neapolitan-style pizzas are good (especially the one with green garlic cream and nettles), the pastas are the knockout at Oenotri, in downtown Napa. The radiatore (a short pasta with squiggly lines like a radiator) is a particular favorite--in the spring they add in wild nettles here as well, and fava greens, but like any good Napa restaurant, the menu changes often to take advantage of what's in season. There's a strong respect for southern Italian tradition, and the chefs Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde embrace turning the simple (chickpeas into light, satisfying fritters, and nettles are weeds, after all) into something elevated.
Local Expert tip: Twice a month they offer cooking classes, teaching up to sixteen students at a time how to make southern Italian favorites.