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Three Top Napa Valley Chefs Begin New Ventures

Tim Fish
Posted: June 21, 2001

Napa Valley's restaurant scene is heating up as well-known chefs Michael Chiarello, Cindy Pawlcyn and Todd Humphries, along with restaurateur and designer Pat Kuleto, take on new projects.

Michael Chiarello has left Tra Vigne, after 15 years as chef and co-owner of the St. Helena restaurant that he helped found. His protégé, Carmen Quagliata, has stepped in as executive chef of the Italian restaurant.

"Michael Chiarello's Napa," a new PBS cooking and lifestyle program, launches this fall, and "Napa Stories," his new book profiling leading Napa Valley vintners, is set for release later this year. Chiarello is also a partner in Consorzio, a line of gourmet food products, such as lavender honey and infused olive oil.

Todd Humphries has left his position as executive chef of the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America's campus in St. Helena. The former chef at Campton Place in San Francisco, Humphries is now a partner in restaurateur and designer Pat Kuleto's latest venture.

Kuleto, after shopping for a location in Napa and Sonoma counties for years, is now hard at work on Martini House in St. Helena. Known for such restaurants as Boulevard, Farallon and Jardinière in San Francisco, Kuleto is transforming a modest Craftsman bungalow that was formerly known as Spring Street restaurant. The new 180-seat dining spot is set to open in early October.

"We're calling the food 'Wild Napa Cuisine,'" said Kuleto. The menu, created by Humphries, takes inspiration from the holiday and harvest meals typically served at Napa Valley wineries.

While the restaurant will indeed serve martinis, Kuleto said it's named for Walter Martini, a former opera singer who sold bootleg wine from the cellar during Prohibition.

Kuleto is expanding the bungalow, enclosing the porch and adding a dramatic staircase in the center of the house, which will lead to a cellar wine-bar. The wine bar and restaurant list will feature 600 wines from around the world, many available by the glass. The restaurant design is inspired by Napa history, with decor that includes antique winepresses and light fixtures made from Wappo Indian baskets.

Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, owner of the classic Napa Valley eatery Mustards Grill, has just opened Miramonte restaurant in St. Helena. After a quick $1.5 million retrofit of the old Showley's at Miramonte restaurant, next door to Terra, Pawlcyn is drawing locals and tourists alike with upscale home-cooking influenced by the food of North, South and Central America.

"I can do really fancy food, but I wanted it to be a real neighborhood joint," said Pawlcyn, who hired Pablo Jacinto as chef de cuisine at Miramonte. The menu regularly includes the likes of fish tostadas, duck burger with shiitake mushroom mustard and variations on seviche. The wine list features selections from California, as well as South America and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Pawlcyn, an original partner in Real Restaurants group, has quietly severed ties with the company, which owns Northern California restaurants such as Fog City Diner, Betelnut and Tra Vigne. Pawlcyn is now the owner of Mustards Grill, which she opened in Yountville with Real Restaurants in the early 1980s, and remains the executive chef there.

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1327 Railroad Ave., St. Helena, CA 94574
Tel: (707) 963-1200
Fax: (707) 963-1207
Open: Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Entrees: $13¿$22
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Discover

Learn more about these restaurants and chefs:

Wine Spectator Online's package on Napa Wine Country Travel, including Dining in Napa Valley

  • July 22, 2000
    Tra Vigne Opens Wine Bar in Heart of Napa Valley

  • Feb. 13, 1999
    Napa's Greystone Restaurant Hires New Executive Chef
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