Caffè Roma. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
A cappuccino and the tranquil morning atmosphere of North Beach at Caffè Roma, is just the thing you need before hitting the road for the Napa valley. At the entrance to the café, you can admire the old-school machinery used to make the special blends of freshly roasted coffee served at the bar.
526 Columbus Avenue; (415) 296-7942.
Afternoon: Vinous Escapades
Viansa. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
As you enter Sonoma wine country from the south, one of the first buildings you’ll see looks like a villa set atop a gently sloping hill. While this Tuscan-inspired winery, Viansa, is not Sonoma’s most exclusive place, it has a warm, relaxed atmosphere — the type that complements wine tasting the best. After trying the Italian-style wines on offer — particularly the 2010 Vino Rosso, a blend of four Italian red varietals— order a glass of your first choice to sip on the outside patio, which overlooks the vineyards.
25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma; (800) 995-4740.
Heitz Cellar. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
Viansa may have the impressive sights, but Napa’s Heitz Cellar contains hidden Italian treasures: grignolino reds and roses. The grignolino varietal, which produces light, fruity wines, is common in Italy’s Piedmont region, but rare in here in the States. You can try Heitz’s grignolino — and its better-known cabernet sauvignon wines — at the cellar’s intimate tasting room, surrounded on two sides by lovely fields of grapevines.
436 Saint Helena Highway, Saint Helena; (707) 963-3542.
Evening: More Wine?
Pasta at Oenotri. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
All that wine should put you in the mood for a big Italian meal, making Oenotri a fitting next stop. Located in downtown historic Napa, the restaurant serves fantastic pasta dishes like spaccatelle with braised rabbit, and solid meat dishes with seasonal, often-surprising contorni. Dine on the patio and leaf through the encyclopedia of Italian wines that is the restaurant’s list: a leisurely way to wind down your visit to Napa. Eat outside early in the evening, though, and you might see the butchering of whole animals through the kitchen’s glass walls, which is fascinating, but a little unsettling.
1425 First Street Napa; (707) 252-1022.
Afternoon: Art Hangouts
Caffe Trieste. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
After you’ve recovered from your Napa fun, get back to the city. Start with an espresso at Caffe Trieste in North Beach, once a hangout spot for beat poets and Italian-American artists like Francis Ford Coppola. In an endearing, old-fashioned move, the owners have covered an entire wall with pictures of the artists, writers, and musicians who have frequented the coffee shop. At the next stop, the Museo Italo Americano, you can experience another type of art history lesson. The museum has a permanent collection of paintings and sculptures by Italian and Italian-American artists — both contemporary like Francesco Clemente, and from the early 20th century, like Giorgio de Chirico and Rinaldo Cuneo.
Caffe Trieste: 601 Vallejo Street; (415) 392-6739. Museo Italo Americano: Fort Mason Center, Building C; (415) 673-2200.
Molinari Delicatessen. Photo credit: Alexia Nader
Before you leave the city, seek out one more culinary treat — a loaded sandwich at Molinari Delicatessen, a North Beach classic. You pick a roll from a box and they stuff it with a range of cold cuts, peppers, and sliced provolone, among other traditional Italian-American fillings. The friendly guys behind the counter will also load you up with deli meats, biscotti, and mozzarella cheese to enjoy at home for days.
373 Columbus Avenue; (415) 421-2237.