These last six months have been a season of loss and change in my life. So, the news that Café Lucy here in Napa had been sold and was to be transformed into an Italian restaurant by folks with rumored connections to Macaroni Grill just flat made me burst into tears. What I and many others loved about Café Lucy was the simple, uncomplicated, non-fussy food that tasted of love. IMHO what Napa needs is one more Italian restaurant just like I need one more hole in my head. Seriously, arent the 15 Italian restaurants we already have sufficient?
With all of this burning in my head and stomach, I decided to stop by Café Lucys replacement for lunch on Good Friday, now called Posticino. Because as much as I loved Lucy Gores food, time marches on and I felt I should at least be fair enough to give the newcomers a chance, even if I felt biased. Gone the rustic vine covered wood chip carpeted patio in front, the bright retro oilcloth tablecloths, the bright paint adorning the rather homely cement block building, the wonderful Lucyisms that were scrawled in the dining room and bathroom. In its place a fancier patio with dark wood pillars holding up new screens to provide shade, beautiful, large new windows to be flung open, white tablecloths, elegant dark wood tables, servers in black pants and vests with starched white shirts and ties.
With the patio tables filled, the hostess showed me to an indoor window-side table, after flinging open said windows. Situated near the French doors leading to the patio I watched the heat and smoke from the grill waft across the dining room towards the open air.
While waiting for my salad, bread arrived with a small ramekin of an olive herb spread. The chunky yet creamy texture with the herby-salty-briney quality was rather addicting, but then Im a sucker for olive spreads.
My salad of thinly sliced tomatoes, red onions and basil shreds, was layered into a Napoleon sort of tower, surrounded by a balsamic vinaigrette and a generous handful of fresh mozzerella bocconcinis. I know its a bit too early for stellar tomatoes, but I just couldnt resist. I wanted to see how theyd pull it off. The tomatoes were youre average early season tomatoes, but they werent horrible. The composition of the thin slices tomatoes and onions worked, and the bocconcinis were the perfect texture tender and milky but with just a hint of chewiness.
I bypassed the two offered panninis - which at $9-$12 seemed pricey - and the meat courses and decided on pasta after the hostess and server and the menu itself proudly proclaimed that all the pasta is house made daily. I ordered the Tortelloni alla Fonduta, which was pasta, filled with soft cheese and chopped almonds, and dressed with a bit of broth, fresh steamed spinach and truffle oil. After I ordered, the staff informed me that this was one of their signature dishes. The crunchy bits of almond and the astringency of the barely steamed spinach balanced the richness of the soft, creamy cheese and earthy truffle oil. It was very good but not something Id crave again, and not something I'd think of as a signature dish.
I decided to indulge in dessert and settled on a dish of fresh fruit covered in zabaglione, which was then baked. The fruit was thick slices of fresh strawberries and fat blueberries, covered with a nutty Madera Zabaglione that had been quickly broiled golden top. The contrast of cool fruit against warm, nutty, rich zabaglione was unique and tasty.
Overall the experience was pleasant but somehow devoide of soul, the food good, but not stellar, and the new décor very attractive. Im not itching to return. I must be just too biased and really want a Café Lucy experience again. This new incarnation feels too much like an anti-thesis of Café Lucy. I suspect that I like the Italian food better at other Napa Valley spots and that I felt like the food wasnt anything I couldnt get elsewhere in this wonderful greater Bay Area region. And IMHO at $40+ for a 3 course lunch with a glass of wine I guess I feel I should be a little more eager to return. This new restaurant has certainly been a provoking topic in the local paper, with letters to the editor protesting some disparaging comments made in the wine critic's column and a postive review by the restaurant critc. So, has anyone else eaten there yet? Any thoughts?
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