Our dinner at Chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega in Yountville was one of those evenings where everything seemed magical. We arrived a few minutes late but our table was not yet ready, so we sat at the bar and ordered a couple of proseccos and cold glasses of water. Our bartender, who it turns out is a Brooklyn native, happily proclaimed that to him, Napa was the place to be as he served our drinks. Before we even had two sips of the prosecco, the floor manager showed us to our table and promptly comped our drinks because of the wait (it took all of 1 minute, I swear).
I had read up on Bottega before going so it was quick and easy to order the food. For the wine, our server helped us out. He picked out a crisp white (the name of which, I don't remember, so sorry) and a red which I recall was named Eileen, but I can't seem to find it on the menu ... We ordered the white by the glass, and it turns out Bottega gives you a quartino instead which means about 2 generous pours of the good stuff. We ended up making small talk with the two ladies seated next to us, who were enjoying a gorgeous bottle of Barolo. They were finishing up by then and we were floored when they said they couldn't finish their bottle anymore and would we like to enjoy the rest of the bottle for them? WOW. By the time our server came with our whites, we had more drinks than we could handle. See this row of lovelies below? All of that was just for ME.No better way to start dinner than that right? We were absolutely famished, so we were practically drooling when they set down the Polenta Under Glass ($12) in front of us. I still dream about this soft and creamy polenta, topped with earthy caramelized wild mushrooms and drizzled with a rich balsamic game sauce. So good.
The second antipasti, the Burrata ($12), was equally unbelievable. God bless the Italians for coming up with this cheese made of mozzarella AND cream (as if those things by themselves are not already wonderful enough). It was absolutely fresh, and was paired perfectly with the artichokes that came in fried and lemon braised preparations. MMMM.
Next came the ricotta gnocchi in salsa di pomodoro della Nonna dusted with pecorino ($15). These were the softest, fluffiest pieces of gnocchi I've ever had in my life. Absolutely amazing.
For the secondi, we sank our teeth into Bottega's version of Bistecca alla Fiorentina (minimum 2 people for $36 per person): wood-grilled grass fed porterhouse, with a side of truffle-parmiggiano fries. The bistecca was excellent. Done the Florentine way, which is to start with great ingredients and cook simply but perfectly. It was nicely medium-rare, with a kick from the pepper and nice tang from the grilled lemon we squeezed over the meat. The pieces near the bone which were soft and entwined with juicy fat were to die for. I had to keep eating even if my stomach felt like it was going to explode.
The unfortunate victims of our overzealous ordering were the truffle-parmiggiano fries, which we simply had no more space from. They were really good though.
We had to give up the fries to leave room for dessert, which we picked out as our waiter was serving it to the adjacent table: the Chocolate-Almond Molten Cake ($9) which doused with hazelnut crème Anglaise at your table. By then, we were the only party left in the dining area, and our water STILL let us order this dessert which would take 20 minutes to make. That's service people!
Of course, the staff were extra wonderful to us because it turns out that the floor manager is a pool fanatic and he was very excited to have Mika in the restaurant (He was even more excited that night, our server claims, than when Michael Jordan was in there a few weeks prior! Imagine that!). They actually invited us to hang out with the staff at a local bar to see Napa's wonderful servers get smashed. Of course we couldn't miss that!
All in all, a memorable night in every way. I have to say that even with all the wonderful restaurants Napa and Yountville have to offer, I would go back to Bottega again and again.
Where: 6525 Washington Street, A9 Yountville, CA 94599. Tel. (707) 945-1050