Bottega is Michael Chiarello's brainchild and baby. You're probably thinking to yourself "Where have I heard that name before?" Was it a sneeze? A type of exotic pepper? A Celebrity chef? It's probably the last one. ;) Chef Chiarello has been on the likes of The Next Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Top Chef Masters, all the while being a successful restauranteur, having his own cooking show, and publishing several popular cook books.
Sometimes I feel like I love too many things, but honestly....I love Bottega. The ambiance, the food, the service it was all perfect. The perfect end for a perfect summer in California. Surrounded by friends, family, and the love of my life it was truly a lovely, lovely experience. Of course it was also the last time I got to see boyfriend, and there was a wedding going on in the garden, so I think all the lingering romantic affects my have influenced my judgement on the atmosphere.....but even without all that mush Bottega was extremely pleasing. The combination of the cuisine, atmosphere, company, and attentive service made the dinner at Bottega a shining memory.
I would highly recommend reservations and coming with an empty stomach. Interestingly enough, my dinner party found the appetizers a bit more interesting than the main course options. Following our appetites and our intuitions we decided to make a meal out of the appetizers. Click through the jump for the rest of the meal!
The menu is traditionally divided up antipasti, paste, secondi, contorni.
Most of the restaurants in Napa valley tend to do things themselves and I'm pretty sure Bottega is no exception. They open up the meal with wine, if you've ordered any, and homemade bread with a delicious Parmesan cheese, herb, and olive oil spread. The olive oil and parmesan cheese crumble was absolutely addictive. Even my sister, who has a gluten intolerance, was compelled to break her gluten free diet and indulge in the bread and the spread. Through the saltiness or the cheese you can still taste the finer, fruity notes of the olive oil and combine that mish-mash of delicious to some freshly baked bread and you have a dairy based, crack like substance that will have everyone at the table asking for seconds. I still think about it...even months later.
|Monterey Calamari: crisped with Arborio rice flour & aioli nero|
The lemon, a traditional pairing to calamari, was further complemented by the aioli nero. What is aioli nero you ask? It's a squid ink, garlic, lemon juice, and egg yolk sauce, that in Michael Chiarello's words "completes the flavour of the calamari." True to his word, it totally does. The squid ink is naturally salty and the garlic paired with the egg yolk adds a certain depth and richness that completes the overall taste of the dish. The saltiness of the aioli, tartness of the lemon, and crispness of the calamari make this appetizer well worth ordering.
|Burrata Caprese: Golden Bear Ranch heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves and oil, balsamic caviar|
I just love how the natural flavors of every component in this dish are naturally elevated and raised into something so simple, fresh, and delicious.
|"Bacon and Egg": Braised pork belly, crispy soft cooked egg, four bean Tuscan salad, preserved Myer lemon marmellata, lemon verbana|
Hahaha, the four bean salad was well seasoned and dressed, but the stars of the dish were clearly the bacon and the egg. The "bacon" wasn't really bacon in the traditional crispy sense, but more like fatty, juicy, braised meat. Any soft boiled egg done to that specific level of perfection is absolutely delicious. If you don't like runny egg yolks, I have nothing more to say to you.
|Polenta Under Glass" caramelized mushrooms and balsamic game sauce|
Thankfully, since polenta is made from corn meal, my sister could indulge in this treat without any regrets. It was so delicious and presented in such a cute rustic way, I wished that everyone at the dinner table could get one individual serving of this lovely dish.
|Roasted baby golden and chioggata beets: Point Reyes blue cheese espuma and pistachio vinaigrette|
Beets are one of my favorite vegetables because they're so fun. Their vibrant colors and their sweet taste are something that I can enjoy regardless of the season, but are very endemic of farmers markets and "seasonal fruit." This beet salad was what I imaged summer to taste like: light, bright, fresh, and sweet. The beets were phenomenal and the way that the dish was presented highlighted the beets in all their natural, sweet, unadulterated glory. The blue cheese espuma, essentially a fancy word for foam, was very delicate and blended well with the natural nuttiness of the pistachio vinaigrette. However, both these accents definitely fell to the wayside and the sweetness of the beets was the true star in this dish. This dish was simple and for first time diners at Bottega, I definitely think there are some other more creative and more interesting appetizers you could order in place of this one.
|Pasta Fritta: Prosciutto "house cured," melon "nuvola", summer melon and micro basil|
It is well known in my family that I can demolish a 1-2 pounds of prosciutto alone. I'm pretty sure when I die, my body will dry out and turn into prosciutto and they'll dig me up years later as a salted mummy. Anyway, I digress. The prosciutto at Bottega was very, very delicious. I find that a problem that endemic with some prosciutto, is that they can be overly salty and the salt essentially obliterates the natural porky flavor. At Bottega the prosciutto was absolutely delectable, I loved how you could taste the natural meaty flavor of the pork wrapped around a sweet summer melon. Although I'm not sure why "house cured" is in quotation marks, as it was on the menu, or why the cantalope is referred to as "summer melon." However, I'm guessing that maybe Bottega only half completes the preservation process in house or maybe the melons change depending on what's seasonally available.
Ultimately, this dish was fabulous. Not only did it really satisfy the craving I had to delicious prosciutto, but it really exemplified how fresh, simple ingredients could stand on their own to crate a delicious whole. That being said, I do feel that there are other items on the appetizer menu that were not as "simple" as this and expressed Bottega's creativity in more complex ways than this particular dish.
PasteSo where the antipasti were clearly delineated as appetizers, the paste section (yes, I did spell that properly) is meant to follow the appetizers with a slightly larger portion size. The main portions of the items are housed in the Secondi section. So don't be alarmed when you see that a plate of pasta is five rounds of ravioli. I'm not sure if you can ask for the pastas to be made into "dinner sized" offerings, but the waitress did warn us as we were ordering about the portion sizes.
|Beet and Rabiola Fresca Ravioli: brown butter beet vinaigrette, candied hazelnuts, beet terra, and mission figs|
If you couldn't tell from my rants and ravings on the earlier summer beet salad, I freaking love beets. I honestly think they're one of my favorite root vegetables around in terms of taste, color, and texture. Even looking at this dish now, I can remember the singularity of that one bite, the pefect combination of the al dente skin of the ravioli, the natural sweetness of the beets, the creaminess of the butter, the crunch of the candied hazelnuts and the even sugarier figs on top. Everything just worked to create a perfect summer pasta. It wasn't overly sweet, there wasn't any messy sauce, all the components mixed together well...it was just the perfect bite delivered in a perfectly cooked pasta package. This was heavenly and divine, and it was actually not very heavy at all. The proportions were sized just right and it made for a very delicious precursor to a heavier meal.
|Black Garlic Spaghetti Grande: head on gulf prawns, hen of the woods mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, calabrian chili, citrus essence and bonito flakes|
I feel like I would have probably leaned towards the beets or one of the meat options for the pasta. Even though I love seafood, I always seem to be put off by the amount of shellfish or seafood they give you in the pastas, I want more and I often tend to wish that the seafood was offered as a main course and not just upon a bed of noodles. Even though this was yummy, I think I was a little bit put off by the texture of the noodles.
|Potato Dough Raviolo: filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, sage brown butter|
The predominant memory that I have about the raviolo was the richness and the shock that there was only one on the plate. I feel like I should have realized that ravioli is the plural or raviolo, but it didn't occur to me until I saw my one gigantic raviolo, mounded with black truffle and Parmesan shavings placed in front of me. It was like an epiphany "Ooooooo, raviolo!!" Anyway, this dish was rich, rich, rich, rich. In all my gluttonous adventures and misadventures, I've never wished that anyone had shared dishes with me until I encountered this one.
The potato dough was soft and cooked al dente, and it was a wonderful housing for the spinach, cheese, egg, truffle and butter, but the whole construct was far too rich for me to finish alone. The tower of black truffle on top wasn't necessarily overpowering, but it did black truffle me-out, so much so that I couldn't enjoy the side order of truffle fries that my dinner party had placed. The spinach and ricotta fell to the side in terms of flavor, I felt like they were the posse of the rich egg yolk that came pouring out, and the predominant flavors of this dish were the black truffle, butter, and the all encompassing egg yolk. The flavor of egg yolk is thick and rich, I loved popping open the skin of the raviolo and seeing all the liquid gold come leaking out, but I do think this is a dish that would be best shared, it's definitely too much for one person.
|"Naked Pasta": nettle grundi with medium rare lamb sugo, spring onion salsa verde, shaved pecorino|
This was the dish that boyfriend ordered for himself. The "naked pasta" title was certainly accurate, the pasta was pretty stripped down and chose to highlight the naturally rich flavors of the lamb, the sweetness of the onion, and the buttery pecorino. The nettle pasta, although bright green and very appetizing, seemed to derive much of its flavor from the sauce and the lamb pieces that littered the plate. The lamb was succulent and delectable and really tender from the stewing process and the sweet spring onions really added to the natural sweetness that the lamb had. The buttery pecorino on top really just tied the noodles, sauce, and meat together in a creamy little bow.
Honestly, I wish I had a pasta dish that combined the Beet and Rabiola Fresca Ravioli and the "Naked Pasta", I feel like these two dishes encompass the yin and yang, or in this case the sweet and savory sides, of the perfect summer pastas. The ravioli and the naked pastas were both simple n their presentation, but melded the ingredients they were composed of so perfectly....mmm. Man, it was just simple and delicious. Once again, an elevation of simple fresh ingredients to a higher state of deliciousness.
ContorniThe meat, fish, and poultry dishes were all main's and had the appropriate portioning to them. Like the paste courses before them, they had a similar theme of taking fresh, simple ingredients and elevating them to a higher level.
|Wood Grilled Chops of Grass-Fed Lamb: local cherry vinaigrete, pistachio pesto, roasted cauliflower fregola Sarda|
|Forno Roasted Truffle Rubbed Chicken Breast: Heirloom tomato panzanella, olive oil poached fresh dug potatoes, chicken jus|
|Smoked and Braised Natural Short Ribs: polenta and speck polpette, espresso agro dolce glaze, smokey jus|
At this point, everyone was too full to order dessert, which I deeply regret, but we sat and talked for awhile before wrapping up our meal.
Ultimately, everything at Botterga Ristorante was very, very well done and expertly executed. The menu was well curated using local and seasonal ingredients. As a diner, you could see the spirit of summer winding its way through the seasonal salads, pastas and appetizers. However, Bottega never lost its rustic staples, for they too, were also available for order on their menu. It was a long drive to get to Bottega from the East Bay, but I quite enjoyed the experience of eating in the "Next Iron Chef's" kitchen. I thought Bottega really highlighted the natural flavors of the ingredients and focused on simple down to earth food, with just the lightest modern touches. I recommend it if you're ever in the area or if you're ever craving pasta, fowl, meats, unique appetizers and good wine.
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Price: $$$$$ out of $$$$$
Kid Friendly: Yes, if your kids have highbrow tastes. I can see the staff of Bottega being very accommodating though.
Repeatability: Yes =)