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Posted September 2006

A Diner’s Journal

Bistro Don Giovanni

By Stacey Bressler

(NAPA, CA) -- I love everything about Bistro Don Giovanni. I love the happy, bright colors chosen for the décor; I love the ever-present buzz that lets me know I’m in a popular dining establishment; I love the enthusiasm of the wait staff; I love the patio for outdoor dining; I love the whimsical sculptures; and, most of all, I love the fresh, seasonal, Italian-inspired food.

Two of the reasons why Bistro Don Giovanni is such a special place are Donna Scala and Scott Warner. Donna Scala, owner and chef, is one of those rare people who lights up a room just by being there. She has such a wonderful flair and zest for life. And executive chef Scott Warner is passionate about using only the freshest seasonal ingredients and supporting our local farmers whenever he can. Since I have the highest respect for those working on family-owned farms in and around Napa Valley, I am happy to support the chefs who purchase organic, sustainably-grown produce from our local vendors. You can really taste the quality. And, by the way, Scott is also an accomplished musician. You can sometimes catch him playing with his Back Burner Blues Band, along with several other local chefs. He may be a man of many talents, but Napa Valley diners are glad Scott that has chosen to pursue his career as a professional chef. After serving as executive chef at Reed Hearon's popular Rose Pistola and Black Cat in San Francisco, Scott came to Bistro Don Giovanni in the fall of 2002.

Summer is tomato season in Napa Valley, and there is no better place to celebrate this than at Bistro Don Giovanni! Whether it’s a traditional Caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala, and Sicilian olive oil ($9.50) or a refreshing Gazpacho (priced according to the daily ingredients accompanying the tomatoes), these dishes scream “summer!” And I would personally add the Blondie Mary cocktail, a take on the standard Bloody Mary made with yellow tomatoes, to my must-have list. And heirloom tomatoes are certainly evident on the incredible wood-oven pizzas and freshly made pastas. I don’t often allow myself to splurge on carbohydrates, but I make an exception for the pizzas at Bistro Don Giovanni. Their Pizza Margherita ($11.95) is my benchmark for this traditional tomato, cheese, and basil delight. It’s big enough to share, but I usually want at least half for myself. Other pizza selections vary daily, but one of my absolute favorites sports ham, Chanterelle mushrooms, black truffle, and pecorino cheese ($12.50). If you are a fan of crispy-crusted, brick oven-baked pizzas, you can never go wrong at Bistro Don Giovanni.

Bistro Don Giovanni
4110 Howard Lane
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 224-3395

And let’s not forget the non-tomato dishes, which are also wonderful. The signature fried olives and almonds ($8.75) or crispy fritto misto ($10.50) make wonderful hors d’oeuvres for sharing, especially if you are starting with cocktails. The beet and haricot verts salad ($9.25) is another signature dish that I adore. I was intrigued by the Summer peach salad with almonds and goat cheese ($9.00) but couldn’t resist the daily Gazpacho with cucumber sorbet and so will have to add the peach salad to my “next time” list.

All of the pastas look wonderful and get rave reviews from my carb-eating friends. My husband was extremely pleased with his Farfalle d’Amore containing wild mushrooms, pecorino, and black truffles ($16.50). Of course, he didn’t feel enough “amore” to save a taste for me. I almost gave in to the daily risotto with roasted mussels, heirloom tomatoes, and smoked mozzarella ($19.50), but opted instead for the less carb-laden pan roasted chicken with slow cooked Romano beans ($16.50). It was delicious. On other occasions we’ve enjoyed the local wild salmon ($25.00) and the grilled Bistro Burger ($12.50) – be sure to ask about having your burger done Donna & Scott’s way. There is also a daily whole roasted fish which is worth asking about.

I generally do not eat desserts, but it’s hard to resist at Bistro Don Giovanni. I’ve had a few bites of the Tiramisu ($7.50) and found it delectable. House-made sorbettos and gelatos ($7.50) also reflect seasonal flavors. If I am going to ignore the diet, I’ll probably go for the butterscotch pudding, when it’s available. This is the kind of butterscotch pudding I love – dense and heavy with a nice hearty taste of rum. My husband favors the lighter, sweeter style that is available at Market Café in St. Helena, but I still love him despite our difference of opinion on such an important matter.

Bistro Don Giovanni is open all day with the same menu. Since it is such a popular place, reservations are recommended. Also, for those who may be traveling with children, there seem to be a lot of families dining together at Bistro Don Giovanni, especially early on Sunday evening.


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