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Rebirth and Rocky Roads

Author: Christina Julian
February, 2016 Issue

Despite all the loss, theres always room for rebirth.

A few years back, on the heels of my European-spun honeymoon, I waxed on about the merits of Spanish and Italian wines and the varietals that define them. In that same piece, I bemoaned the existence of such low cost, high quality beauts in Napa Valley. While the thrifty sips of faraway lands seem to elude most Napa Valley restaurants, the allure of all things Italiano, does not. Even more so with the untimely and unlikely closing of St. Helenas iconic Tra Vigne restaurantgone with it, the creamy-dreamy butterscotch panna cotta, a disappearance that may very well crush all chances of satiating my sweet tooth ever again. Yet despite all the loss, theres always room for rebirth.

A second coming

As if intuiting the bound-to-be outcry for authentic Italian food, the folks at Ca Momi opened another outpost, dubbed the Osteria, in downtown Napa, blocks away from its sister station at the Oxbow Public Market. The restaurant boasts a pizza certification stamp that feels almost as stringent as scoring a new AVA in the Napa Valley, garnering approval from the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) and Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN), international regulatory agencies that govern authenticity when it comes to pizza prepared Napoletana style.

So how does one maintain such a pizza cred stamp? According to the folks at Ca Momi, pies must measure no larger than 11 inches with a raised edge crust and a thin center, cooked for 90 seconds in a wood burning oven at 900 degrees. The reward for such meticulous behavior: a soft, springy and easily foldable crust and a pizza that aims to please even the pickiest pizza aficionados around. Crispy fried options feature crust thats deep fried then slung into a wood burning oven, which volatizes the oil from the pizza and imbues the pizza with a smoky taste that stands out.

Founder Valentina Guolo-Migotto remains committed to her roots, having resurrected childhood dishes from her native Veneto (Venice), like the bigoli coi rovinazzi (chicken gizzards) pasta and trippa alla contadina (braised Sunfed Ranch honeycomb tripe) alongside more universal delights like the pizzas and stinco al forno con patate (an organic grass-fed pork shank doused in rosemary, sage and juniper).

The word grappa used to conjure memories of my post-college, hazy romp through Italy, but the il vitelione squelches all that in a smooth cantaloupe cordial with grappa accented with calabrian chiles. Ca Momi Osteria also combats some of our Napa norms by being casual and affordable while also serving the bang-up kind of food our valley is known for.

Growing pains

Not nearly as light and lofty as the crust at Ca Momi are the battles that continue to brew over the growth and regulation of the Napa Valley wine industry. It was foolish for anyone to believe peace and harmony would be restored in the New Year given the raucous nature of the November Board of Supervisors meeting that played to packed crowds and featured more than 70 public comments, some which bordered on outrage.

In a session that waged on more than five hours, special attention was directed to the 13 recommendations that the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (APAC) formulated in the eight months leading into the meeting. A petition bearing 500 signatures was waved against further regulation in what (some feel) is an already over-regulated industry. Others fight in favor of the APAC recommendations, which call for stricter regulation and monitoring of winery use permits all the while mud-sling style words and phrases like Napafication and Wine Country on steroids infiltrated the room.

The brunt of the debates continue to circle around everything from the definition of agriculture and proposed mandatory production reporting to prohibiting the hold and haul of wastewater along with instilling a use permit code compliance process which, if approved, would require each winery officer to certify things like yearly wine production and adherence to the 75 percent rule. By the time the meeting finally adjourned, the only point that was agreed upon was to reconvene in January.

While its starting to feel like the likelihood of reaching consensus on these items is next to nil, one point it seems we can all agree on is that we live and work in a valley whose future is worth fighting for. Heres hoping all the feuding never changes that.


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