Ciccio Reopens in Napa Valley Under Former Meadowood Chef

After opening in Yountville in 2012, Ciccio became a favorite among Napa Valley locals and visitors as a convivial gathering place for comforting Italian food and great Negronis. But, like many other restaurants, the beloved spot struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually shuttered in 2022. It sat empty for nearly 18 months before chef Christopher Kostow and his wife, Martina, approached Ciccio’s owners, Frank and Karen Altamura (owners of Altamura winery), about taking over.

“As a resident of the valley, Ciccio was a place we always brought people,” said Kostow, who earned renown as chef at the Restaurant at Meadowood, which held a Wine Spectator Grand Award before tragically burning down in the wildfires that ravaged Northern California in 2020. “We didn’t want to see the loss of something we thought had real value in the valley. We’re not vintners, so our ability to improve the valley is through restaurants, and it was important to us that Ciccio didn’t go away.”

Also leading local restaurateurs, the Kostows are the duo behind the Charter Oak, a more casual spot in St. Helena, which has held a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2022.

The Altamuras remain Ciccio’s owners but have handed over operations to Kostow and his team, who, after receiving the keys in April, made a few quick adjustments before reopening on May 11. “We approached it, always, with an eye not to shock people,” Kostow explained, noting that they changed small things to contribute to a slightly more fun, deliberate and “sexy” feel, such as giving the walls an earthy shade of yellow paint and adding 1970s movie posters to the décor.

[article-img-container][src=2023-06/tt_cicciointerior062923_1600.jpg] [credit= (Kelly Puleio)] [alt= The dining room of Ciccio, revamped in spring 2023, with yellow walls, wood chairs and tables, a bar area fronted with green-painted wood panels and 1970s movie posters on the walls][end: article-img-container]

Similarly, the menu format is the same, with starters, salads, pizzas, pastas and other entrées. But there’s been a refresh from Kostow, culinary director John Tyler Franson and chef Juan Carlos Atonal. “We don’t want people to come in and try the same dish they had five years ago,” Kostow elaborated, highlighting revamped menu staples like the pork Milanese and cacio e pepe. “I think the pork had capers and lemon; we’re doing chicories and anchovy. And the cacio e pepe has burnt peppercorn and pennyroyal cheese.” The pizza also received an upgrade: Kostow now utilizes his 30-year-old sourdough starter for the dough.

As for the beverage list, the restaurant will continue to serve up rock-solid Negronis, which come three ways: “Frank’s,” the classic version; “Kingston,” made with rum instead of gin; and a white Negroni made with Alpe Lys amaro and Bordiga vermouth. Beverage director Micah Clarke, also of Charter Oak and formerly the Restaurant at Meadowood, has devoted 80 percent of the wine list to Italian offerings, including aged bottles like the ArPePe Valtellina Superiore Grumello Rocca de Piro 2015, along with other versatile, food-friendly and affordable reds such as Grattamacco’s Bolgheri. “It’s not super geeky, but rather very thoughtful. Our goal is to have the best Italian-focused list in the valley,” said Kostow, noting plans to grow the list from 50 selections to 100. The team is also maintaining a tradition of featuring wines from the local vintners who frequent Ciccio, offering bottles from Caymus, Staglin, Chappellet and, of course, Altamura.—A.R.

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Ciccio Reopens in Napa Valley Under Former Meadowood Chef Ciccio Reopens in Napa Valley Under Former Meadowood Chef *Ciccio Reopens in Napa Valley Under Former Meadowood Chef