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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.