It’s been called a mini Ferry Building Marketplace. And right before its grand opening in 2007, while supporters cheered that it would bring new energy for the railroad track area off downtown Napa, critics liked to suggest that the town wasn’t ready for such a high-end concentration of restaurants, wine bars, farmers market products and boutique treats.
Nearly three years later, the votes are in. With the recent debut of a new restaurant and two more restaurants coming soon, the main Market Hall at Oxbow Public Market is fully leased. It’s quite an accomplishment for a 40,000 square foot, $10 million glass and brick barn-style destination that arrived in the middle of a recession.
At C Casa Innovative Taqueria, opened in May, the line-up features freshly made tacos, salads, small plates and rotisserie chicken, assembled by owner Catherine Bergen (previously known for her Made in Napa Valley gourmet food brand). The shop, which sits on the east side of the Market, offers indoor and outdoor seating facing the site formerly occupied by Copia.
In a contemporary take on classics, dishes include ‘unique tacos’ such as the grilled garlic citrus prawns with corn relish, avocado tomatillo salsa and cilantro and ‘small plates’ like corn edamame salad with zucchini, red bell peppers, cotija cheese and Meyer lemon olive oil. Everything is made on-site from scratch, including house made white corn tortillas and chips, accented in upscale touches like micro-greens.
While recipes change with the seasons, there is a theme of unexpected spark, delivered by chefs and brothers Erasto and Pablo Jacinto, who for many years worked with celebrated chef Cindy Pawlcyn. Grilled mahi mahi tacos are plump with avocado, broccoli cabbage, salsa picante and oranges, for example, while black beans are spiked with spicy chorizo and a flurry of goat cheese.
It’s the perfect combination, meanwhile, at Ca’ Momi’s Enoteca, showcasing classic Italian pizza, pastries, and regional wines.
Scheduled to open later this summer, the café comes from owners Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto. The trio is best known for their winemaking at Napa’s Ca’ Momi Winery, and those quaffs will take center stage on the menu. Yet there also will be wine “discoveries” from smaller regions and producers all across Italy.
“We will bring in wines from our friends around Italy, always looking for something different and interesting – something that we think captures the spirit of Italian life,” says De Conti.
For food, expect authentic nibbles, such as classic Neapolitan pizzas crafted in a wood burning oven, plus tramezzini (small tea-style sandwiches), and a pasticceria sending out crostate (tarts) and crostatine di frutta (fruit pies), baci di dama (cookies), tiramisu and biscotti.
The Ca’ Momi story, by the way, is pretty delicious, too. The name pays tribute to Momi dea Bionda, a Napa Valley character who was famous for his obsession with the house, his grapes and his wine. In his later years he liked to patrol his property in an old motorcycle, armed with a rifle, and with his blind dog riding in the sidecar.
When Graham’s Take-Away Foods opens later this summer, diners will find “locally sourced prepared foods coupled with convenience.” That’s a mouthful, but it translates to gourmet grab-and-go for breakfast, lunch and dinner, prepared by real chefs. Owners Graham and Andrea Zanow are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and chef Graham worked at the French Laundry.
Start the day with individual loaf cakes, French bistro-style quiches, fresh fruit salads and just squeezed juices, along with yogurt parfaits layered with Clover yogurt, house made granola, seasonal fruit and Katz & Company preserves.
At lunch, you can tuck into a Rocky Jr. curry chicken wrap, a Mediterranean tuna salad pita or a Diestel turkey sandwich on foccacia with smoked mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil mayo. For vegetarians, daily specials may include Greek mezze platter, Caprese wrap on a tomato tortilla or a truffle and herb egg salad sandwich on brioche. The line-up also includes a selection from 50 different pasta, potato, veggie and grain salads.
For dinner, packaged ready to heat-and-eat comfort foods are the order of the day, including organic meatloaf with Boursin whipped potatoes and glazed rainbow carrots or classic roasted chicken with herbes de Provence roasted vegetables and pan gravy.
Tip: Oxbow is right in the heart of Napa wine country, chock-a-block with wineries ripe for the visiting. Plan a day of divine eating and drinking, with Pure Luxury as your personal chauffeur.