Bottega is Bellissimo

Crispy soft-boiled egg with Pecorino pudding at Bottega.

Since opening last year, Executive Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant in Yountville has racked up accolades and crowds galore.

After being invited to dine there recently for the first time, I can understand why it’s won so many foodie fans so fast.

The large restaurant is done up in dark reds, browns and greens. Venetian plaster, Murano glass chandeliers, leather chairs and deep hued wood accents give it a most inviting warmth.

Wouldn't you love a set of these water tumblers? I know I sure would.

Little touches give the place even more distinctiveness from the hammered copper water tumblers to the parade of plateware that arrives throughout the dinner — from homey, floral china to rustic earthenware to modern square and rectangular dishes.

Prices range from $6 to $14 for appetizers, $15 or so for pasta, and $16 to $29 for entrees.

Chiarello came by to say hello, as he often does to patrons as he makes his way through the dining room, which is always bustling. The charming chef offered to let his kitchen just cook for us. And an array of dishes began to arrive.

From his early days as the opening chef of Tra Vigne in St. Helena to his years as the star of the “NapaStyle” cooking shows, Chiarello’s always been known for bold, brash flavors that excite and satisfy. Bottega is no different.

Smooth, silky duck liver pate.

Up first was a silky duck liver pate with soft, sweet sauteed apples and a hillock of parsley and frisee, a nice counterpoint to the fantastically fatty nature of the dish.

Bigeye tuna crudo.

Next, a special that night of bigeye tuna done crudo-style — sashimi-like with a topping of pine nuts and pear — and served dramatically on a slab of pink salt.

It was bracing, with the toastiness of the pine nuts announcing themselves in every lovely bite.

Those are balsamic "caviar'' beads crowning that burrata and butternut squash.

That was followed by a dish featuring one of my all-time favorite cheeses — burrata. Knobs of the mozzarella with the cream center were tossed with chunks of roasted butternut squash, caramelized mushrooms and brown-butter vinaigrette. With the magic of molecular gastronomy, 20-year-aged balsamic was turned into beads of “caviar” that crowned the dish. It was a lusty dish for the cold, autumn night.

Wood-grilled octopus with wild arugula.

Next, coins of octopus that had been wood-fired till they were smoky sat atop creamy, olive-oil braised potatoes. Pickled red onions and salsa verde lightened the dish with freshness and subtle tang.

Then, the showstopping tempura-like egg with the voluptuous, custardy yolk that accompanied a warm, spoonable Pecorino cheese pudding. To say this was a rich dish would be an understatement. But it was sure worth the calories.

Ricotta gnocchi

Potato gnocchi with duck and chestnuts.

A duet of gnocchi was outstanding. In one corner, ricotta gnocchi so tender you could barely pick them up with a fork, and covered with a simple tomato sauce based on one by Chiarello’s grandmother. In the other corner, gnocchi seared with crispy exteriors then topped with a duck-chestnut ragu with an unforgettable powerhouse of flavor.

Porky goodness.

Our entree was that night’s special — fork-tender porchetta with the creamiest polenta. It’s pig and more pig. A suckling pig gets massaged with a fennel-parsley-garlic paste, then stuffed with pork shoulder. It all goes into the oven at midnight and doesn’t get removed until 1 p.m. the next day. The skin was surprisingly a little tough to chew, but the meat itself was pure porky bliss.

Cookies, candies and gelato.

Of course, we still had room for dessert. So out came vanilla gelato and an array of nougat, caramels, biscotti and other little treats. Finally, a server set down a warm chocolate cake, then poured warm hazelnut creme anglaise and candied hazelnuts over the top, which did indeed send us over the top, as well.

Warm chocolate cake with hazelnut creme anglaise.

Bottega wraps you up in one delicious, comfy cocoon that you definitely don’t want to tear away from anytime soon.

More: Q&A with Bottega Chef Michael Chiarello

And: Michael Chiarello’s Zinfandel Spaghettini with Spicy Rapini

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Date: Friday, 18. December 2009 5:22
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, Food TV, General, Restaurants

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26 comments

  1. 1

    That tuna is so vibrant! And the dessert = perfection.

  2. 2

    Wow, everything looked amazing! Of course you had me at burrata, but wow, there was such a visual array of amazing stuff, I did not know where to focus.

  3. 3

    I’m drooling while reading about this meal! Everything looks and sounds incredible, and I’m now seriously craving the burrata and butternut squash dish.

  4. 4

    Yup, definitely living through you… :) I think the gnocchi alone would have made me perfectly happy…

  5. 5

    Looks Fabulous!! I’m especially intrigued by the burrata dish.

  6. 6

    was it a FREE meal or did you have to pay for everything?

  7. 7

    How lovely indeed. I am craving gnocchi now..and the tuna.

  8. 8

    We ate at Bottega on my first wine country trip in September. It was amazing, one of the best meals I have ever eaten!

  9. 9

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bella CupcakeCouture and CarolynJung, lisa lawless. lisa lawless said: this meal looks amazing! RT @CarolynJung A glorious dinner at M. Chiarello's Bottega. http://www.foodgal.com/2009/12/bottega-is-bellissimo/ [...]

  10. 10

    Love your restaurant reviews, only wish is that i lived closer so I could sample some!

  11. 11

    Ann: I was invited as a guest of the restaurant, so I only paid a generous tip. But as you know, I tell it like it is. If it’s good, I’ll say so. If it’s bad, I have no qualms about saying that, either. ;)

  12. 12

    I love watching Easy Entertaining! I can’t wait to check this place out!

  13. 13

    I wish I could visit this restaurant, your meal sounds amazing! Would love to try that duo of gnocchi!

  14. 14

    That is one seriosuly droolworthy meal. You are so lucky! :D

  15. 15

    I visited recently, and I was quite impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the refreshing cooking techniques applied to each of their dishes.

  16. 16

    holy cow! your review makes me want to run outside and jump in my car and not stop until i arrive at bottega! i adore michael chiarello.

  17. 17

    MMMMMMMM,…all of the dishes look stunning!! Waw!

  18. 18

    I had no idea Chiarello was at Tra Vigne, I used to eat there growing up, back before I knew what an executive chef was. I’m going to be back out there in a few days, will have to see if I can coerce my family into getting lunch there.

  19. 19

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Chiarello, KParris Catering LLC. KParris Catering LLC said: RT @ChefChiarello: FoodGal.com, Carolyn Jung, on Bottega: http://bit.ly/4HAs3o [...]

  20. 20

    Was there in October; it was great and I got to meet Chef Micheal. I was with a party of 12, so I think I sampled everything on the menu. I swear, it was the most amazing polenta in the world! How it stayed creamy and yummy for so long is a mystery to me.

  21. 21

    Marc: No coercion necessary. Just show your family this post and I guarantee they will want to go with you to Bottega.

    NJFoodie: I hear ya on that. I, too, was amazed at the texture of the polenta. No coarseness to it whatsoever. It was as smooth as pudding.

  22. 22

    My husband and I had a chance to go here on Sunday. We had great fried calamari, pasta with clams and sausage, and the incredible porchetta. If I have any complsints, it’s that the offerings were almost too rich! But a great value for money. So many wonderful things on the menu – I’ll be back!

  23. 23

    I went to this resturant in January and will be breaking my one-month vegan experiment there next January!

  24. 24

    Ok – So hubby and I went back to Bottega last month. Had the shaved asparagus salad (yum), ricotta gnocchi (O.M.G. I can die happy now)and the safood brodetto (perfect in every way). Enough food so we weren’t bursting and oh so nice. Chef was cooking on that Friday night (not just expediting – cooking!) which was great to see.

  25. 25

    [...] More Places to Dine in the Napa Valley: Michael Chiarello’s Bottega [...]

  26. 26

    Wow how wonderful to be invited to Bottega. The meal looks divine. Unfortunately I couldn’t view the last few photos but the rest of the meal looked heavenly. Hopefully I’ll make it to Napa in the near future.

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