The family and I visited Pizzeria Azzurro last night in its new location on the corner of Main & Clinton Streets. The first tenant in a brand new building, this area of downtown Napa is caught between gritty and revitalized. Even my father-in-law remembers when this area was where the ladies of ill repute set up shop. In the space of a few blocks you’ve got low-income housing, the Salvation Army, Shackford’s Kitchen Store, a skate park, a massive Catholic church and school, Uva restaurant and the Vintner Collective in its beautiful, historic stone building. This quirkiness is part of what I really like about Napa.
Located in a brand new building, we thought the space was cool, very urban feeling in greys, browns, blues and whites with polished concrete floors, soaring ceilings, tall windows, and the open kitchen. The very creative light fixtures are clear, bottomless wine bottles hung over a slim light bulb. A banquette runs down the center of the room with seating on either side. We were lucky enough to grab the banquette seat that offered a view of the beautiful Vintner’s Collective across the street. We liked the open, airy, modern feel of the space, but the downside is that it’s very noisy, making conversation a bit challenging.
The menu is largely the same, with a few more salad, pasta, pizza and wine options and the addition of appetizers, and dessert. We started with the White Bean Bruschetta and the Rapini-Lemon Oil Bruschetta, which were new menu additions. They arrive as a single, large bruschetta, which we sliced up between the three of us. While the Rapini Bruschetta was beautifully done, we realized we’re just not a rapini kinda family. The White Bean Bruschetta was addictively good, thanks to the sweetness of the saba and the earthy richness of the white bean puree.
My husband and I had Manciatas, which are just thin, chewy, baked dough with a salad on top. I liked the salty-peppery bite of the Arugula-Gorgonzola-Red Onion combo, but he likes the Spinach-Roasted Pepper-Mozzerella freshness. Step-son had the rich and simple Formaggio Pizza with mozzarella, parm, goat cheese & ricotta salatta. These were all on the menu before, but are just as delicious in the new location.
For dessert, they were offering organic vanilla soft-serve with either dark chocolate sauce or caramel sauce & sea salt. We got a dish of each. Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing. My husband raved about it until we went to bed. Our server told us the soft serve mix comes from Strauss, and then they make the ice cream onsite. The caramel sea salt combo brought out a buttery flavor in the ice cream, the chocolate brought out the rich, creamy flavor that for me is the strong Strauss identifier. The chef is fiddling with some other exciting topping options.
I had a glass of Odisea 2005 Two Rows Garnacha from Lodi, which was a bit warm and alcoholy at first, but cooled down and opened up, pairing beautifully with the White Bean bruschetta and the Manciatta. I do think Azzurro’s wine list has been a winner from the start, with interesting, offbeat wines at reasonable prices. They obviously do their homework, and I wish more places would follow their lead in seeking out the unique values instead of just revisiting all the usual, boring suspects.
Despite the noise, the maintenance of quality and the few polishing touches make this place even more irresistible.