08 July, 2013

Ca' Momi, Oxbow Market in Napa- A visit to Italy ...

...for your mouth!  We met with Dario De Conti for dinner at his restaurant Ca' Momi in Napa's Oxbow market several weeks ago, but every time my stomach rumbles, "Dinner time!"  I wish I could reach for a slice (or four) of that amazing, authentic pizza. If you are wondering how to make time for Ca' Momi, the good news , it is a space
that serves you on your time.  
Need a quick snack to fortify your wine trekking?  Hit the Enoteca for some good advice and better fuel.  
Need some pastries to bring to your Napan friend's dinner party?  Hit to To Go Counter and load up because you know you want to be asked back

But if you have time to experience the full service restaurant, prepare for a relaxing and tasty meal.  
Dario De Conti, along with partners, Valentina Guolo Migotto and Stefano Migotto have put together a charming spot with authentic Italian ingredients and seasonal bounty of California.  The Arugula, herbs, etc come from their garden at the old Copia space; it's hard to get more local than that. But most of the cheeses, flour etc come from Italy; it's harder to get more authentic than that.  And Local and Authentic aside, their focus and dedication manifests in deliciousness---and you just can't get better than that.

We were hosted at dinner by Dario and tasted through many of his delicious wines and amazing food.  It was fun to get to know him a little too.  Dario was born near Pordenone and went to school at the University of Padova.  While he was studying winemaking, he worked as a pizzaiolo at night and perfected the art of Neapolitan pizza.  The wood oven at 900 degrees cooks the pizza in exactly in 90 seconds.  The dough hits the oven and forms a crust which is important since it has to hold the cheese and the proper tomato sauce is thin.  The intense heat creates the perfect texture and just the right amount of char.  Thought goes into everything , including balancing the tomato sauce with buffalo mozzarella, whose stronger taste to stands up to the tomatoes.  Neapolitans certified processes to make real traditional Italian pizza.  Ca' Momi's pizza transported me to Italian vacation days.  Dario also explained the name "Margherita"  It came from the name of the Queen of Italy in the 1890s, where in her honor, flatbread was garnished with tomatoes, cheese and basil to represent the Italian flag,  Historical and delicious.  But don't try asking for Parmesan or chili flakes---Ca' Momi is religiously Italian and eschews these American tagalongs.

Some of the other dishes we tried were:
FarinataMade with garbanzo flour typical of Liguria.  This dish has a rich taste and a richer history dating back to the 1400 's when Genova Tuscany Venice and Amalfi were continuously fighting on sea. A ship of captured Pisans had to use hull full of north African ingredients To survive they made bread out of the garbanzo flour.  

Involtini of Bresaola Cured thinly sliced beef is rolled around creamy Robiola cheese spiked with fresh chives. Like a Lombardy Piemonte plate. 

Sarde in Saor: Hardcore traditionally Venetian dish. Sardines marinated in white wine with onions, sultanas, pine nuts, and chives.  Freshness of the sea served cold. Vaporetto not included

Sarde in Saor

Spaetlze allo Speck: Caution: This dish will haunt your dreams.  Perfectly crisp salty , porky speck in a rich cream sauce with toothsome spaetzle. Not to be missed

Wine is the star

Gnudi: Bellwether Farms Ricotta made from the rich milk of Jersey cows gives this dumpling its pillowiness.  Organic spinach, the perfect seasonings, along with sage and parmegiano-reggiano cheese complete the dish.

And the Ca' Momi wines complete the experience.  We loved the expression of California fruit through Ca' Momi's Italo-centric lens.  Dario pointed out that the California growing season takes the limits off the fruit (from Rutherford, Mt.  Veeder and Atlas peak), so his  Cabernet Sauvignon is powerful while at the same time retaining a juicy complexity. We loved the 2012 Zinfandel, Napa Valley for its spicy red fruit and food friendly nature. More information on the Passion Wines here, but let me tell you the House wines were delicious as well.  BrixChick Heidi has a ton of notes on the wines we loved to love,  so stay tuned for updates from her. Before I forget, Ca' Momi boasts  a lovely list of Italian wines if you are feeling a little continental.

Italian culture on the plate.  

But the best was saved for last. Pastries are the first
things the restaurant cooks starting at 4 am.  Stefana focuses on this and is proud of the authenticity.  You can dart into the kiosk to grab any of these.  What many Italians do is buy a tray to bring to Sunday lunch.

You would make room at your table for a friend who showed up with these:
Latte Di miele
Almond cream puffs
Coffee cream puffs
Chocolate cream puffs
Niocciolata (hazelnut) cream puffs

Cream puffs!  Caramel and Tiramisu and more.  The caramel puff was just the right cross of sticky and crunchy, With caramelized sugar, burnt and sweet, forming a crackle over the top of the cream puff that meets your teeth with a satisfying crunch.  Followed by tender cream puff dough and creamy filing.  Each bite was more delightful than the next.  Two kinds of Tiramisu , both to die for.

Since the menu is seasonal, expect to see changes.  They were already planning a Summer salad of potatoes, octopus, and cherry tomatoes that will be up soon As well as  Ribollita, which I see already on the online menu.

Not trendy but traditional.  All the recipes are time tested and if you compare with Italian examples you will taste the similarity, so if you are jonesing for Italy come here:

Ca' Momi
Located inside the Oxbow Market
610 First Street
Napa, CA 94559

Many thanks for a wondeful meal.  We'll be back!

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