Bistro Don Giovanni

Up to Napa tonight for dinner with Mike and Gretchen. Mike chose the spot–a place his family has patronized for decades.  Bistro Don Giovannia is a scary, barely marked turn off Hwy. 29.  Even on Sunday night, it was quite full and you wouldn’t get in without a reservation.

The facility has as many seat outside as inside, it seemed to me.  The first thing one notices is this large sculpture on the lawn.

A kinetic water feature--just what every garden needs.

A kinetic water feature–just what every garden needs.

We sat inside because Mike said it the best place to see if any local or international stars show up–this is the kind of place the Mondavi’s patronize in Napa, not that I would recognize a winemaker if I saw one.  I was considerably less than happy with the table they gave us–an insultingly small round number not fit for a fine dinner for four people.

This might be sufficient for a bar, but not for a meal.

This might be sufficient for a bar, but not for a meal. 

An upscale restaurant deserves an upscale menu, and Don Giovanni doesn’t fail.  The basic thrust is California modern meets Italian, starting with the carpaccio, then the caprese salad, through the pear and gorgonzola pizza all the way to the butterscotch panna cotta for dessert.

I’m a sucker for a caprese salad, and found this on to be particularly excellent:

A lovely geometric presentation, a panoply of color

A lovely geometric presentation, a panoply of color

James Bond complains that you can’t get enough toast with your caviar.  I have the same problem with the basil leaves on a caprese salad, but Don Giovanni is up to the challenge.  I love the green, white, red and yellow on the plate, and the proportions of tomato, cheese and basil were perfect.

Mike had a beet salad:

This presentation went for height.

This presentation went for height.

Mother tried to get me to eat beets, to little avail. She didn’t know how to prepare them the way people do now.   And maybe there are varieties of beet that weren’t available then.  In any event, I grew up and I’ll eat beets now.  You should too.

Gail had the Salmon–wild naturally.

Grilled Salmon, mashed spuds and tiny tomatoes.

Grilled Salmon, mashed spuds and tiny tomatoes.


I had the braised short ribs with risotto.  This was a daily special, not on the menu, that our server described so well I couldn’t resist:

Leek Risotto with short ribs.

Leek Risotto with short ribs. I wish I could find out what kind of flowers those are–they actually have a piquant taste.

Gretchen had the fritto misto–a plate of shrimp, calamari and veggies tempura battered and quick fried.  Good thing for me she eats like a canary–I got to try some and it was spectacular.  You wouldn’t think fried food could be this light and delicate.

Fritto Misto--the lightest, tastiest fried food ever.

Fritto Misto–the lightest, tastiest fried food ever.

Skinny people like me generally pass on dessert, but Mike wanted one and it was only polite to keep him company.  I went for the “Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding”.

The most addictive thing you can put in a martini glass.

The most addictive thing you can put in a martini glass.

The pudding was incredibly rich and smooth.  I thought it was more chocolate than butterscotch, though.


On the way out Mike spotted the owner, and wanted a photo to show his 93 year old dad.

Mike and the boss.

Mike and the boss.

Bistro Don Giovanni is one hell of a good restaurant, the kind of place where the important movers and shakers of the wine country come to enjoy a good meal and to see and be seen.

It loses points for that ridiculously small table: I would refuse to be seated there in the future.  Loses a few more for self-righteously refusing to have decent sweetener for the tea, only Stevia because it’s organic and hip, it just doesn’t taste good.

Prices are steep.  Not French Laundry steep, but about as expensive as it gets for this level of dining.  Service was good until it was time to get the check, then it’s like we moved to Cleveland.  Still good enough for a 20% tip on a large check.

The bottom line is I’d eat there again. And bring my own sweetener, as usual.


Bistro Don Giovanni on Urbanspoon


3 thoughts on “Bistro Don Giovanni

  1. Fabulous post – really enjoyed all those scrumptious pictures and am now drooling. You also made MY day when you said they didn’t have those awful poisonus sweetners (which should be banned by the way! Lol). It makes me feel better to know this restaurant is obviously a cut above, and will not compromise “health” for the almighty dollar. Of course taking your own is wonderful for you:-)

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