Melanie Wong | May 26, 200304:42 PM     11

On Friday I stopped by Café Lucy in downtown Napa for a light and early dinner, the first in the few months since the sale was called off. The interior has been repainted with a fresh new skin and the decorative words from Lucy Gore’s lemon tart recipe have given way to a charming passage from _Secrets of Tsil Café_.

Hours of operation have been somewhat idiosyncratic here, serving dinner only two nights and not on Saturday. But that will change May 31 when the Café initiates Saturday dinner hours. Also, the Café will remain open on Friday and Saturday through the afternoon for small plates and wine service before dinner. So, if I’ve understood correctly, the new hours starting next Saturday will be –

Tuesday to Saturday – 11am to 3pm

Friday and Saturday – 3pm to 5:30pm

Thursday, Friday and Saturday – 5:30pm to 9:30pm

Café Lucy has mostly been a closely guarded secret among the locals who enjoy the elevated home style cooking here. With expanded hours on Saturdays, visitors will have more chances to experience Lucy’s special brand of TLC. The café is an ideal stopping off point at the south end of the Napa Valley for a meal before returning to the City after a day of wine tasting. Also, as the summer growing season approaches, Lucy features not only locally grown produce but the product of her own vegetable garden.

The other news is the launch of Café Lucy’s website (linked below). I’ve recounted several of the wines I’ve enjoyed from the list, and now you can see for yourself how carefully selected and food-friendly the wine selection is. Many country wines and interesting choices under $30 per bottle, a good variety available by the glass, and what truly floors me is a choice of SIX rosés! Few restaurants are brave enough to offer even one pink wine (they’re on the white wine list here), and this teensy, tiny petit bistro trumps them all with my favorite producers of Chinon rosé and Tavel rosé from France at the ready for my summer drinking pleasure to be sipped on the Café's garden patio. There’s plenty from California to choose from too, including the 99 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel for only $50 (available as of last Friday).

What did I have for dinner? Wanting to save room for dessert, I ordered only one small plate, wild mushroom crostini with greens, $6. Lucy’s fine-grained homemade bread was lightly toasted and topped with a garlicky blend of sauteed mushrooms. The plate was completed with a pile of lightly dressed baby spinach leaves and shaved asiago. Desserts are large here, meant to be shared, but I had a big slice of warm lemon tart, $6, to myself. Wonderful tart/sweet balance of lemon-y curd in a thickish sandy crust, and finished with a dollop of thick whipped cream and slices of sweet strawberries or whatever else is in season. The lemon tart is a Lucy “classic” and my all-time favorite of the sweets here.

With more than an hour’s drive ahead of me, I skipped wine this time. But I did consent to a taste to make sure that a newly opened bottle of 1999 Chateau de Jau Cotes de Roussillon rouge was sound. (g) This is a fruity and vivacious medium-bodied red rounding up the usual French Mediterranean suspects – Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvedre – offered at $6/glass or $24/bottle. Full of exuberant red fruits and a background of spice, this lively wine would pair beautifully with the Café’s fresh and delicious Cal-Med cuisine.

Lucy suggested that I head over to the Friday evening Chef's Market a block away to check out opening night. I said good-bye feeling nourished in body and soul by the homespun magic of Café Lucy.

Café Lucy
1408 Clay Street
(Between Main St and Pearl Street a block East of Jefferson).
707 255 0110

Link: http://cafelucy.com/

Image: http://www.cafelucy.com/pictures/lunc...

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