Real-Deal Italian Food at Ca’ Momi
Veneto-born Chef-Restaurateur Valentina Guolo-Migotto proudly says that when Italians dine at her Napa restaurant, Ca’ Momi, they tell her the food is better than what’s in Italy.
That pleases her to no end.
It’s easy to agree heartily after eating there, too, as I did earlier this spring when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
This is one of those places, where you want to shout to the rafters, “Where have you been all my life?”
Because it is that glorious.
It is a touch of Italy — the real Italy — in the Napa Valley.
The rustic downtown restaurant makes most everything in-house, even its own wines, beer, vodka and gin. They’re also experimenting with making amaro, the bitter Italian herbal spirit, of which they have a large selection to choose from.
Try some amaro in the La Puma cocktail ($14), which also incorporates rye whiskey, spiced sugar, and egg white. It’s a frothy palate-awakener full of orange and spice, and yes, all things nice.
Old Italian films play on a wall by the bar, leaning heavily to Sophia Loren classics the evening I was there.
Guolo-Migotto is a stickler for authenticity, and you can taste it from the get-go.
Roasted root vegetables ($16), many from the restaurant’s own nearby farm, get roasted in the pizza oven until soft and deeply caramelized. They’re dressed with a load of olive oil, as the Italians are want to do. It makes for a heavenly starter with a blob of creamy burrata and charred flatbread alongside.
House-made porchetta ($15) is thinly sliced, with a ribbon of fat ringing it. It’s rubbed with a proprietary herb salt before it goes in the gas oven to cook, then into the wood-burning oven to crisp its skin. It’s meat decadence.
The pizza here carries not one, but three certifications, including the VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana). The “00”-flour-based dough is cooked for 90 seconds at 900 degrees in a wood-burning oven, and it is nothing short of spectacular. Our burrata-prosciutto ($23) one sported a pliant, foldable crust with a developed fermented taste.
Rigatoni with braised oxtail ($30) is cooked down with organic San Marzano tomatoes, cocoa, pine nuts, raisins and Parmigianno-Reggiano until the meat is spoon-tender and the sauce is thick and sticky, coating each ridged noodle completely. For a carb lover like me, this dish fairly made me weep, as it was everything you want in a pasta ragu.
Ca’ Momi believes in snout-to-tail cooking, so Guolo-Migotto is hoping her diners will be up for trying more offal in the future. Her version of tripe ($15) is a savory stew-like combination of both blanket and honeycomb tripe. Cooked with saffron, celery, and Pinot Grigio, it’s extremely tender, with just the slightest chew to it. For those who fear the funk, it’s been tamed here, leaving only a rich, meatiness to it.
Salad is usually served after the main course — the European way — unless you request otherwise. Frisee and endive salad ($13) makes for a perfect palate cleanser with its slightly bitter leaves full of crunch, tossed with thin slices of pears, toasted walnuts, Gorgonzola and a fruity apple-cider vinaigrette.
For dessert, a mille-feuille of vanilla pastry cream provides a last bite that is just sweet enough.
Even after all that, you just might want to linger with a tiny glass of amaro, because Ca’ Momi is one of those places that’s just too hard to leave.
More Napa Eats: Miminashi