St. Helena, CA 707 963-4444 Visited January 25, 2006 - Lunch
We’ve dined at Tra Vigne a couple of times but this was our first visit in a while. We had our 3.5 year old with us and they did their best to accommodate him. The restaurant interior is remarkably austere in the daytime. At night it is much more appealing. Outside seating while not an option in January would be a good choice on a nice day as the courtyard is lovely.
This was a very poor lunch experience overall and we can’t recommend the restaurant based on it. Our waiter was inexperienced and almost bumbling. We had a huge booth table but with the little wine table set at the end (common practice) it was nearly impossible to get out of it without knocking over the wine.
The over-salting was consistent throughout our meal. Menu choices are pricey even at lunch. In retrospect, I should have sent back both of my dishes but that's not practical when you are dining with an on-the-go young child. The highlight of the meal by far was the wood-oven pizza.
The olive oil on the table comes with olives in it and tasted like it was infused with lemon, which is good and bad depending on your taste. It tasted strange. The bread was crispy and good – it tasted like artisan or house made.
Lemonade – Way, way too sweet. Not recommended.
Insalate Sardine – Forma of fresh Monterey bay sardines, shaved fennel, bell pepper emulsion $10
This was actually sliced terrine with a side salad – one sardine on top and the rest embedded in the bell pepper gel. There was too much gelatin and bell pepper in the terrine which overpowered any subtly of the sardines. I picked them out and left the rest. The salad had so much salt on it couldn’t be eaten. A sad start.
Zuppa del Giorno $7 Soup with Artichokes and Lentils – sort of an Artichoke minestrone
The soup was really salty but tasty and served hot. But Jack said he never needed to order it again.
Kid’s wood-burning oven Pizza$5
Pizza was a great balance of crust sauce and cheese. Crispy with good fresh mozzarella and good sauce. Highly recommended and a tremendous bargain!
Agnolotti di Agnello, Lamb cheeks, king oyster mushrooms, pecorino, osso bucco reduction $17
Jack enjoyed his lamb’s cheek sauced pasta, and would order this again.
Parpadelle con sugo di coniglio $19
The parpadelle with rabbit was so over salted it was a screaming shame. I’ve had this dish at Tra Vigne before and I know it can be heavenly – and memorable. The pasta is fresh and well perfectly the rabbit in sauce was also perfectly cooked with big pieces of meat in a weighty sauce. But the oversalting made it impossible to eat more than half the plate. Another sad dish.
Jack's Summation: It's hard to get up the interest to go back again. Next time: Pizzeria Tra Vigne, next door.
2003 Tiefenbrunner Lagrein Castell Turmhof This wine was quite enjoyable by the end of our meal. Put in in the cellar for 4-8 years and enjoy it then. 2-3 – Jack
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.