You know how ugly pizza gets after you bring it home and put it in the fridge and try to reheat it the next day? The crust becomes a chewy, gluey mess and the toppings lose their charm. Well, not the wood-fired pizza at Redd Wood in Yountville.
By some magic, the perfect crust of the <CF103>Prosciutto, Arugula, Parmesan, and Black Pepper Pizza</CF> ($14 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>), heated in a 350 F. oven for a few minutes the next day, was just about as good as it was hot from the wood-fired oven. A last piece was heated on the third day, and it too was perfect. This crust is thin, but must be made from heavily yeasted slack dough the way it bubbles and puffs and glistens with a bit of olive oil. The surface is lightly crispy, but all the air bubbles inside make it soft and easy to eat. With crust this good, the toppings are almost incidental.
The Redd Wood location was Cantinetta Piero just a few months ago. That pretty good Italian restaurant was snuggled into the Hotel Luca. Now, poof! Piero is Redd Wood and Hotel Luca is the North Block Hotel.
You may be aware that there's an excellent restaurant in Yountville named Redd. That's for Chef Richard Reddington, who's the force behind Redd Wood — a name that evokes his surname, the wood-burning oven, and the local redwoods.
The kitchen is open to view and remains unchanged from its Piero days, but the dining and bar areas are completely redone in black with white marble trim and golden lights in orderly rows in the ceiling, overseen by a giant clock worthy of a railroad station. The sound system plays shoe-gazer pop a little too loudly.
From the kitchen come appetizers, house-made salumi, pastas, five entrees, three vegetarian and five meat pizzas, and good desserts in a relaxed and relaxing atmosphere. Yes, there is a burger available, but grudgingly. The menu says it's in limited supply and available only after 10 p.m., which means only during the last hour of operation on Fridays through Sundays, since the place closes at 10 p.m. other nights.
The service is so spectacular you won't even notice it. And that's a compliment.
The wine list is brief and modestly priced (there is a bigger list of more expensive wines if you ask for it) and stuffed with good Italian wines as befits a pizzeria, along with selected California bottles. A glass of Fiano di Avellino from the hills east of Naples will set you back $14, but you'll be drinking a wine known to the ancient Romans as Vitis apianum - the bee vine. There's also a list of excellent bottled beers.
Among the pastas is one so rare that it's not even listed in The Encyclopedia of Pasta. It's <CF103>Spugnole </CF>($16 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>), so-called because it resembles a sponge (spugna in Italian). It looks more like a frilly piece of cloth with wavy ridges that coil around a centerpiece. Each spugnole holds lots of spicy sauce laden with bits of sausage, red chilies, and onions. It's yummy.
If flavor is front and center in the spugnole, it's blaring under the spotlight in the<CF103> Arancini with Lamb Bolognese and Tapenade</CF> ($14 <UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197><UStags><SC12,197>?). The arancini (Italian for "little oranges") are balls of creamy risotto rolled in breading and deep fried, paired with a succulent lamb Bolognese and the mouth-puckering intensity of tapenade.