Friday, May 4, 2012

More Italian Magic

Last week I had dinner at Alex Italian Restaurant in Rutherford's Rancho Caymus Inn (the original La Toque space).  The name pretty much says it all -- owned by husband and wife Italians Alessandro and Alessia, and a quintessential Italian establishment in a land full of Cal-Ital.  Chic, sleek decor and luxurious leather seating, lots of Italian wines, and of course a menu full of the regional specialties of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna set this place apart in Napa Valley.

The dish of the night for us (and this was a tough race with many worthy contenders) was the octopus salad with shaved celery, olives, red onions, fingerling potatoes, and Ligurian salsa verde.  Ecco la:

Never in my life have I eaten octopus more tender -- and I've eaten a lot of great octopods in my life.  Check that awesome sear on the tentacles!  Between the crusty char on the outside and the supple, almost creamy meat inside, this thing was divine even before it encountered the fresh crunch of celery and the brightness of the herb pesto.  I see this becoming an automatic order every time I visit. 

Alex's executive chef Nick Ritchie helped Michael Chiarello open Bottega, but left Yountville to open Alex with the two Alexes last year.  You can watch him preparing his octopus salad in this video from the Napa Valley Register.

What to drink with this thing of beauty? We had a remarkable Grechetto from Sergio Mottura's porcupine-ridden Poggio Della Costa vineyard in Civitella d'Agliano, and la vita was very dolce indeed.

Sexy candelabra! And porcupine label.

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