Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Hotel and Spa Napa Valley, California
Twice a year the Tuscan city of Siena attracts visitors from around the world to witness the dramatic horse race known as The Palio. Horses and jockeys representing the seventeen contrade—city neighborhoods—vie for a single trophy, a painted banner known as The Palio, and what will certainly feel like eternal fame. (Movie-buffs may remember the opening scene of James Bond at the Palio in the 2008 flick, Quantum of Solace). The Siena Restaurant in Napa Valley’s Meritage Hotel and Spa, recreates the excitement of the pounding hooves within the medieval Tuscan milieu on several murals adorning its interior walls. You may not be in historic Siena, breathing in the fragrance of locally baked gingerbread and pastries laden with almond paste, but dining at Siena in Napa Valley is certainly the next best thing.
Siena offers a pleasant array of appetizers, salads, pasta and risotto dishes and another half dozen entrees, some featuring locally grown produce. On this occasion, we dined early and opted for moderate portions. Four appetizers looked tantalizing: Dungeness Crab Meatballs, Oever-Roasted Black Mussels, Seared Rare Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, and Margarita Pizza. Had we skipped lunch or found ourselves famished, I’m sure we would have sampled one of these offerings, but on this particular evening we chose to move on to the salad course.
Four salad choices were presented on the menu. Since she’s a big fan of caprese, my wife selected the Heirloom Tomatoes Caprese Salad. A generous slice of Buffalo Mozzarella sat atop fresh basil topped with Aged Balsamic and Dickson Ranch’s Regina E.V.O.O. Later she reported this course was memorable. I ordered the Little Gems Lettuce and White Anchovies. My salad featured baby romaine lettuce with creamy garlic dressing. I particularly enjoyed the crouton and found the anchovies to be fresh and tasty. Another selection featured a simple Baby Mixed Head of Lettuce salad, served with pickled red onion and cherry tomatoes, and tossed with balsamic grape seed oil vinaigrette. Additionally, there was a Fritto Misto and Herbs Salad consisting of Red Royal Shrimp along with Calamari with a Honey-Smoke Chili Glaze.
The Pasta and Risotto dishes sounded positively scrumptious but we ordered something further down the menu! Here are the five dishes from this category, however, that we regrettably had to pass up—hoping to get back someday and order one: Ricotta Cheese Ravioli & Ratatouille features grilled zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant tomato and fresh basil. A second selection, Caggiano Sicilian Sausage & King Richard Leek Risotto consists of cream leek risotto, asiago cheese and seared Sonoma Sicilian sausage. Another dish, Spaghetti & Lamb Bolognese, features ground lamb and spicy sausage served with asiago cheese and basil. Two other offerings found their way in this category largely because risotto or pasta accompanied a seafood selection. These include Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut (served with Mascarpone Risotto) and Pan Seared Diver Scallops “Carbonara,” served with fresh Taglietelle Pasta and Lobster Cream Sauce.
I was in the mood for beef, and considered ordering the Local Organic Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin Tournedos, served with Heirloom Baby Potatoes, Mushroom Medley and Spring Fava Beans with a Cabernet Essence. However, for some inexplicable reason I opted for Steak Frites, a grilled Flat Iron Steak served with Garlic Yukon Gold Pommes Frites with Brown Shallot Butter. I was quite pleased with this offering but left wondering when I’d be able to return to sample the tenderloin tournados I passed up! My wife (predictably preferring chicken) ordered the Rotisserie Fulton Valley Chicken, served with Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Braised Rainbow Swiss chard and Pinot Jus. Other offerings we considered included the Gleason Ranch Roasted Pork Tenderloin Medallions, the Maine Lobster Pot Pie, and the Niman Ranch cheese Burger.
For dessert we chose an exquisite crème brulee and a decadent Chocolate Godino that was “simply to die for.” There could not have been a better ending to our wonderful dining experience.
Our very helpful server explained the Corkage fee of $15 per 750 ml listed on the menu. This fee, she said, did not apply to bottles of wine purchased in the hotel’s Trinitas Wine Tasting Room. One might sample several wines in the tasting room before dinner and bring a bottle to dinner where the server would uncork it for free. Napa Valley, you see, is all about wine tasting and—may I say it without sounding judgmental—instant gratification! “Hey, we like THIS wine and we’d like to have it tonight with dinner.” No objections to that idea here, my friend. You wouldn’t be the first to have that thought!
Though we did not purchase it at the wine shop, we ordered the Trinitas Cellars “ratZINger 2006 Zinfandel,” a wine honoring Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who, in 2005 was elected Pope Benedict XVI. Whether you’re Catholic or not, you’ll enjoy this wine!
One final thing: This Napa Valley Restaurant is very AFFORDABLE. We’ve covered several restaurants around the valley, and for the quality and service you get here, this place must be considered a bargain. Appetizers range from $8.95 to $16.95. Salads go from $7.00 to $11.95. The Pasta and Risotto dishes are priced from $16.95 to $26.00, and the Entrees range from $14.00 to just $34.95.
Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Hotel and Spa
Conveniently located at the crossroads of Highway 29 & Highway 221.
875 Bordeaux Way (formerly Trefethen Way)
Napa, California 94558
Phone: 1 707 259 0633
For Hotel Reservations: (866) 370-NAPA