Redd Wood is one of those restaurants that could easily qualify as your favorite neighborhood joint.
With a cosmopolitan, masculine-chic vibe, plus affordable pizzas and pastas done superbly, it’s the kind of place you can comfortably return to again and again.
Now, if only I could afford to live in Yountville — well, then I’d be all set.
Barring that, at least I was fortunate enough to be invited recently to dine as a guest for lunch at Chef Richard Reddington’s newest restaurant. His first, of course, is the Michelin-starred Redd, a much tonier establishment just a stroll away in downtown Yountville.
So many Napa Valley restaurants sport a Mediterranean look. Redd Wood has none of that. Instead, it looks like a trendy New York restaurant, with its black leather tufted booths, train station clock, marble general’s desk turned service station, and striking ship’s buoy that’s been dipped in bronze and refashioned as a light fixture.
You can tell there’s a sense of whimsy here, too, from the collage that’s taken over one entire wall. Think of it as what we did before the advent of Pinterest. Reddington and staff started sticking inspirational pages from magazines on the wall, as well as hand-written notes about their first menus. Now, diners add their own additions.
Don’t miss the Wappo Hill mailbox affixed to another wall and surrounded by artsy cubbyholes of wine bottles. It’s the actual mail box that belonged to Robert and Margrit Mondavi.
We started with a Little Gem salad with shaved radishes, favas and peas ($11). The veggies were pristine and crisp. Green Goddess dressing lent an addicting garlicky kick.
Carbonara ($18) gets an inventive treatment here with spaghettini tossed with shaved artichokes, porcini, crisp pancetta and spinach. The thick, creamy sauce coats every strand, and the mushrooms add a robust earthiness. It’s a rich and deeply satisfying dish.
The pizzas are among the most flavorful I’ve had. Their thin, blistered crusts are crisp, but with good chewiness, too. The lilt of oregano was really present on the mozzarella, tomato and basil ($14) pie. Roast creminis and spinach crowned another ($14) that was draped with thin ribbons of lardo that glistened from the heat of the pizza. The minerality of the greens was a perfect foil to the utter decadence of the cured pork fat.
My favorite pizza, though, just might be the one crowned with bacon, plenty of garlic, oregano, cow’s milk montasio cheese, and clams ($16). The potato slices turn soft and creamy, with the fresh clams (out of shell for easy eating) lending a lovely briny, sweetness.
On a sultry summer afternoon, the restaurant’s seasonal Italian ices ($6) are a perfect way to cap off a leisurely lunch. Usually at least two flavors are offered, and you can ask for one of each in your order. That day it was strawberry lemonade and a fantastic peach-lemon verbena full of bright, floral notes that just lingered on the palate.
Don’t pass up the wonderful toffee cannoli ($8), either. The shell is shatteringly thin and crisp. It’s filled with fluffy ricotta, chunks of toffee, chocolate bits and toasted almonds.
The kitchen sent out a sample sliver of its chocolate caramel tart ($9). The deep chocolate ganache gets a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s like the world’s best candy bar.
It’s been weeks since I’ve had that meal. But I still think about it, longingly.
That’s the lure that will keep you coming back to Redd Wood, time and again.
More Yountville Places to Try: Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc
Plus: Ad Hoc Addendum
And: Lucy at Bardessono