At the recommendation of Annie P., we dined at a new-ish restaurant in Yountville called Ciccio on our way into St. Helena last Thursday. She knew I would love it because I am obsessed with all things Italian, but what she didn’t know is that they would be featuring my two favorite Italian specialities: Negronis and Vitello tonnato. I die.
Seriously? A Negroni Bar? They must have known I was coming. I started off with the Negroni Delicato: Aperol, Cocchi Americano & Bombay Saphire Gin, served up with an orange peel. Delicious, but maybe a little sweeter than what I was expecting; probably because they used Aperol instead of my beloved Campari, and because there is a slight sweetness to the Cocchi Americano. For my second dip into the Campari-inspired cocktail menu, I selected Frank’s Negroni – named after Frank Altamura, the owner of Ciccio and Altamura Vineyards & Winery. The drink was composed of Hendrick’s Gin, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Campari, and Nonino Amaro – mixed and poured over one large ice cube. This was definitely more my style, and I savored every last drop.
Once I got over my excitement for the Negroni Bar, our waiter informed us that there was a Vitello tonnato special that evening. Could this meal get any better? Annie P. agreed to share the Vitello tonnato with me in addition to roasted cauliflower, garlicky broccolini with egg, and a mushroom & Taleggio pizza.
As expected, the Vitello tonnato was a perfectly composed plate of salty creamy tuna sauce, lightly fried capers, and perfectly cooked thinly-sliced veal. This is definitely something I need to learn to cook for myself. Noted. The roasted cauliflower and broccolini were great, with a slight preference toward the cauliflower because I enjoyed the texture of the golden raisins and pine nuts that were mixed in. The pizza came last, and by that time we were starting to fill up but I managed to eat two small slices. I loved the soft and smokey Taleggio cheese combined with the roasted mushrooms, bringing an earthy flavor to the pizza that was unexpected yet welcomed.
Contrary to my usual dining habits, my tooth was feeling particularly sweet this evening. Luckily we were able to save room for dessert because we decided to split a citrus pound cake. It was light, moist, infused with citrus syrup and topped with thin slices of mandarin and grapefruit. NOM. Like I said, I don’t usually order dessert but when I do, I like it light and fluffy. This was the perfect end to a wonderful meal, and I’ve never been so excited to bring home pizza leftovers.
Ciccio doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait or share a communal table. I would recommend getting there close to opening, around 5:30 or 6:00. I did notice Frank serving up glasses of wine to some regulars as they waited for their table, so if you make friends with him maybe you will be so lucky! And if so, I suggest ordering the Altamura Sangiovese, which they also sell by the bottle for $45 to drink in or take away. I can’t wait to go back and explore the rest of the menu – Negroni Bar included!