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A Taste of Jalisco in Napa with Cielito Lindo

Hola Santa

So you’re craving some Pollo Hoja Santa, which is, of course, chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese and ham, wrapped in root beer leaf and laid over chipotle potatoes. Some Jalisco-style picadillo stuffed jalapeños would hit the spot, too, but where to get them?

Check out the new Cielito Lindo, a Mexican eatery that has set up shop in the former Annalien space on Main and Pearl streets. Rather than just typical tacos and burritos, the menu here features regional specialties like Sopa de Rosas, a beautiful beet soup dolloped with silky crema agria and tangy queso fresco.

The menu draws on family recipes, from owners Enrique Gonzalez Lemus, his daughter Annel Gonzalez and her husband Jeremy Brackett, along with chef Luis Acosta. In a tasty tumble of heritages, The Gonzalez clan comes from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, while Acosta comes from Veracruz. Acosta has been working in Bay area restaurants since he came to California nine years ago, and Brackett, a Napa native, previously was a server at Morimoto's and at Redd.

Pork chop

In fact, you can get tacos if you like, though they are luxury models, stuffed with braised pork belly, onion, cilantro, guacamole and salsa in a housemade tortilla. There are enchiladas too, plump with shredded chicken and slathered in spicy mole beneath sprinkles of sesame seeds, onion, crema and queso fresco, or rolled with chicken in zippy poblano cream sauce and topped in crema fresca and queso.

Tucked next to Ubuntu, the colorful, 47-seat café showcases authentic Mexican ingredients not often seen in Napa, like an agave pork chop in lychee gravy with malanga mash (malanga is a starchy, sub-tropical corn), or arrachera and bone marrow duo of flank steak, grilled cebolla cambray onion, cactus salad and salsa molcajete.

Prensadas chicharron

Bright, intriguing flavors are the rule, through nibbles like prensadas de chicharron (corn masa cakes topped in crispy pork skin, morita pepper aioli, cabbage and queso fresco), and ceviche served as rock shrimp, or diver scallops in lime-cilantro or lime-chive marinade.

Napa usually rolls up its sidewalks early, yet this dinner-only eatery rocks on with service until 11 p.m. nightly, and a bar menu served until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. To go with those cocktails: queso fundido scooped with plantain chips, or guacamole with seasonal, homemade vegetable chips. Or maybe the meal is a cocktail, if it’s an inspired plate like Camarones Piña Colada, bringing Gulf shrimp and grilled pineapple in Piña Colada sauce.

Rock shrimp ceviche

Make plans for a mid-day meal, too, since hours will expand to lunch starting August 30.

“Cielito Lindo" is a popular Ranchera song from Mexico, written in 1882 by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés, and roughly translated as "Beautiful Sweetheart." It’s popular with mariachi bands, and played like an anthem at Mexican sporting events. Now, it’s a delightful anthem for Napa dining, too.

Details: Cielito Lindo, 1142 Main St., Napa, 707-252-2300, cielitolindonapa.com.

Tip: Food this luxurious goes great with a luxurious ride. Enjoy that late night feast without worrying about a designated driver. Let Pure Luxury Transportation get you there and take you home, in a sleek, shiny Town Car.

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