Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I’ll Keep this Short…

because, yes, it’s another blog about pizza.

As part of our walking tour of downtown Calistoga, we stopped to read the menus posted on many of the city’s restaurant windows. Nothing really grabbed us so, by default, we headed off to Boskos Trattoria, where we found the building in which the restaurant sits (far left, photo on the right; photo below) to be more interesting than the food.

“Boskos first opened on the corner across the street from our present location in 1983 where we stayed for ten years. Then we purchased the building where we are today. Our building was originally built in 1888 from sandstone quarried on the Silverado Trail; the same stone used on many buildings, wineries, and bridges around the Valley. In the early 1900’s the building was used as a grocery store, then divided to 2 spaces as gift shops, until we remodeled and retrofitted in 1993. The building was partially burned in the 1905 fire; you can still see charred wood on the ceiling while seated in the dining room. After the remodel in 1993, the building received an award for preservation from the Napa Valley Landmarks, Inc.” (www.boskos.com).

The menu includes house made pastas, Italian sandwiches, salads, soups, appetizers, and—of course—Napoletana-style wood oven pizza. We decided to share one pizza and one Italian sandwich.

Sandwich choices included: the Trentino with fire-roasted eggplant, fontina, pesto, and tomato sauce on focaccia; the Toscana with seared chicken breast, Italian mayonnaise, calamata olive spread, and fontina on focaccia; the Capotolla with sautéed Italian ham, Italian mayon-naise, Dijon mustard, and fontina on focaccia; the Antonio with grilled seasoned vegetables and goat cheese on focaccia with Italian mayonnaise; the Italian Sausage with onions, red bell peppers, and marinara on a sour dough roll; and the Meatball with marinara and Romano cheese on a sour dough roll.

Chuck started with a cup of minestrone which was filled with carrots, zucchini, cabbage, onion, tomato, celery, white beans, potato, spinach, and shells. Very flavorful and very good.

For our sandwich we chose the Italian sausage which represented both the best and the worst of much Italian-American food. The sour dough roll was pleasantly crisp and chewy, and the juicy sausage contained just enough fennel to verify its Italian roots. But the excellent sausage was smothered with that sweet, thick, long cooked tomato sauce that swamps the flavor of everything it is served with. The sandwich was improved by removing most of the sauce and peppers.

From the list of pizzas, we debated between Margherita with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano and extra virgin olive oil and the Crispino tomato sauce, prosciutto de parma, mozzarella, fontina, and fresh arugula. We chose the Crispino. We should have chosen the Margherita.

While the crust had the charred edges and bottom crust that is a charac-teristic of wood oven pizzas, it was thicker and chewier than most. And the addition of fontina made for cheese overkill. But, to us, the most egregious sin was adding the prosciutto before the pizza was fired which dried the thin sliced meat.

An average meal gets an average score of 2.5 Addies.

After a brief stop at the Visitors' Center, we continued our walk around Calistoga. Maybe because the town sits "...in the end of the Napa Valley like a cork in a wine bottle," (Betsy Malloy at gocalifornia.about.com). The town and its early 1900s main street only a few blocks long seemed undiscovered by the average tourist.

Malloy continues: Calistoga is "...a low-key place compared to the rest of the Napa Valley and with lodging and a bicycle rental shop right in town, it's an easy place to have an automobile-free weekend or to take the family."

With its natural hot springs and mud bath spas, Calistoga seemed an ideal place to relax the tensest of visitors--and a place to tell stories while having a beverage outside the cafe.

One such story relates to the naming of the town: "One of California history's greatest characters, Sam Brannan, who once owned most of the town, was asked what he planned to do with his northern Napa property. He intended to make it the Saratoga Springs of California, but with his diction slurred by alcohol, Brannan replied, 'I'm going to make it the Calistoga of Sarafornia!'

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