TraVigne- St. Helena, CA

TraVigne- Mozzerlla

TraVigne- St. Helena, CA

On our last trip to Napa, we stopped in for a late dinner at TraVigne. It had been a long day of travel, tastings, and negotiations. Italian sounded like a good food choice…some comfort food and good glass a wine that you can actually enjoy instead of spitting out. The surroundings are gorgeous and while the entrees didn’t quite live up to my expectation of Italian comfort food, the desserts definitely helped all of us unwind from our work-mode funk.

TraVigne has the most amazing outdoor space, but it was a bit chilly the evening we were there, so we opted for indoor seating. The stone patio softly glows with the warm round hanging bulbs. Mixed with all the green from trees, shrubs, and plants, TraVigne looks like something straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you have the opportunity to dine here, take advantage of this picturesque Tuscan courtyard seating.

Our seats were in a round platformed booth on the far side of the bar. It was cozy and we got bird’s eye view of everything going on. Our waiter was puzzling and odd at first, but in the context of our surroundings, he fit in well as Shakespeare’s Nick Bottom. This gentleman was incredibly confident and advised us of what he thought were the best choices for the night. He was a bit scattered in his execution and would often disappear for long periods of time and have to be reminded of what we asked for. It wasn’t anything that would ruin the meal or the experience, but it was noticeable.

We were advised that the mozzarella cheese “Al Minuto” was something we shouldn’t miss. A hand made mozzarella cheese heated and drizzled with Napa Valley olive oil and served with grilled bruschetta. Our server clumsily sliced and served a portion to each of us on our bread. It was mild and very delicately textured. The five people at our table were able to get decent bite from it as well. It wasn’t anything earth shattering, but it was a straightforward appetizer to go with any wine you could order.

For entrees, we sampled through the seafood and beef dishes. I ordered the wood oven roasted whole fish of the day with blistered tomato acqua pazza, grilled radicchio, and mache salad. The fish was simple and well done, but the garnishes were scant and tasteless. Once again, it was simple and rather ho-hum for the area. For as beautiful as the building and courtyard are, I was expecting something just as gorgeous on the plate. I think I should have ordered one of the pasta dishes and stayed true to the old world Italian style.

The smoked and braised beef short ribs with three cheese polenta, natural jus, and horseradish gemolata was more intricate and generously portioned, but once again, nothing so fabulous that we would be running back here on our next trip. The color of the short ribs was dark and rich. The meat was as expected with tender shreddable nature and slightly fatty throughout. The polenta had an excellent texture and good flavor, which is sometimes difficult to pull off.

Brandt Family Grilled Bavette Steak with duck fat potatoes, crispy bacon, asparagus, arugula, and green peppercorn sauce was probably the star of the table, with the potatoes being passed around for each of us to try. The steak was cooked as ordered, but still seemed to lack any kind of wow factor for us.

Pan Roasted Pacific King Salmon with spring pea salad, garlic whipped potatoes, and hen of the woods mushroom sauce. I didn’t taste this dish, but it was once again simply done with nothing unpleasing, but yet nothing spectacular either.

We all decided to order dessert, which was a good indicator that everything we just ate didn’t quite fit the bill for the day. There was something lacking…and what better way to fill it up than with some sweets?

Here is where TraVigne gets everything right:

Santa Maria Strawberry Shortcake:  buttermilk biscuit, vanilla bean gelato, crème Chantilly- Piled high with thick strawberries, an airy biscuit that wasn’t dried out in the least, a rich, flavorful gelato, and topped with some of the best Chantilly crème I’ve tasted.

House Made Gelato:  The flavors change often, and you can order the trio sampler. We are huge gelato fans, and while this wasn’t quite Italy quality, each was extremely good and bursting with flavor.

Café Corretto “The Chef’s Dessert”:  espresso with choice of Fernet Branca or Grappa di Moscato add vanilla gelato for “affogato corretto”- Mike ordered the Affogato Corretto and it’s the perfect way to get your coffee, after dinner liquor, and sweet all in one dish. Once again, the gelato shines and makes a wonderful creamy accompaniment to the espresso.

Cannoli Alla Calabrese:  sweet ricotta cheese, toasted pistachios, chocolate chunks- I’ve been eating Cannoli since I was a pre-teen and this was really very good. The ricotta has to be blended and sweetened to perfection, and TraVigne did a great job. The shell was fresh and cracked impeccably with each bite.


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