The Grove at CIA Copia
Napa Valley is long on natural beauty and stunning views, but short on opportunities to enjoy a meal outdoors. Every year when the first warm days start to peek through the chill of winter, my partner and I are compelled to don brightly colored summer clothes and head to a patio for dinner before the sun sets. But there’s always a roadblock – where exactly can we enjoy an affordable meal outside?
Grove at CIA Copia is the answer to our warm weather conundrum. What had formerly been additional outdoor seating for the Restaurant at CIA Copia, reopened as a standalone casual eatery in May. Scott Salvatierra, CIA class of 2002 alum and General Manager at The Restaurant at CIA Copia, had Napa locals in mind while executing the CIA’s vision for an outdoor dining and entertainment space.
If you visit Grove in the daylight, bocce and cornhole are available in the culinary garden, conveniently arranged within eyesight and earshot of parents who choose to stay behind and sip sangria while their kids toss beanbags. If you’re looking for a dash of romance with your glass of wine and wood-fired pizza, visit Grove at sunset. Firepits are lit to take the bite out of cool summer evenings while strands of white bulbs wrapped around trees and lanterns placed throughout the lounge softly illuminate the space. For diners interested in a side of entertainment with their dinner, visit Grove on Friday or Saturday night for live music from 6 to 9 p.m.
Hungry patrons order at the small kitchen and bar before staking a seat at one of the cozy outdoor sofas, high-top bar tables, or along the communal dining table running down the center of the dining space.
Two different regional cuisines serve as the inspiration to the menu. The food is, on the one hand, distinctly Wine Country with wood-fired pizzas and bountiful salads. The rest of the menu, however, is inspired by North Carolina’s barbecue culture. Appetizers and salads range from $4 - $12. BBQ entrees and wood-fired pizzas range from $10 - $27. Restaurant patrons thirsty for beer or wine can grab a brew on tap for $8 and wines by the glass starting at $9.
Our meal began with blistered padrone peppers, a chopped salad, and the pillowy, decadent, rich biscuit I’ll be dreaming about until my next visit to Grove. The padrone peppers are a strong indication that the chef has a light hand when it comes to charring food over an open flame. The peppers are cooked perfectly, with the skin separating from the flesh without being marred by the taste of carbon. The dish is finished with a hint of lime and a healthy sprinkle of sea salt.
The chopped salad is a beautiful bowl of bright arugula, frisée, roasted broccoli and thin strips of radish, tossed with sunflower seeds and a tangy vinaigrette. Normally I find chopped salads hard to love. Rarely do these salads include playful or balanced flavors and nearly never are they hearty enough to constitute an actual meal. Grove proved my salad stereotypes wrong.
The roasted broccoli florets soaked up the vinaigrette, making each broccoli bite burst with flavor. Light pickling renders the julienned strips of radish sweet rather than sharp or spicy. The bitter greens and acidic dressing balanced the earthiness of the broccoli and the sweetness of the radish. We returned to this dish throughout the meal to cut the cream of the burrata on the pizza and the weight of the pork and brisket.
I’m happiest when digging into food with my bare hands and set to work tearing into the buttermilk and cheddar biscuit. As I broke off bite-sized pieces to slather in apple butter, it became clear this biscuit was closer to a French pastry with light, flakey, buttery layers rather than a dense hockey puck of dough. I was surprised to learn Grove’s apple butter is not a preserve made of apples and cinnamon, but whipped butter lightly accented with the flavor of apple. Butter on top of butter on top of butter? Why not.
We, in an attempt to continue to eat our vegetables, also tried the Garden Pizza from their wood-fired oven before diving into hefty portions of meat. Much like the padrone peppers, the chef pulls the pizza from the flames just before charred blisters can form on the crust. We enjoyed the decidedly sourdough flavor of the crust as well as its chewy texture. The Garden Pizza comes blanketed in a velvety burrata with spears of roasted asparagus, thick slices of red onion, and a touch of chili flakes. Napa is not short on artisanal pizza. This one edges out the competition with fresh spring vegetables and creamy burrata used in place of stringier mozzarella.
Finally, we turned to two barbecue platters, one stacked with six smoked baby back ribs, the other, two generous slabs of brisket. Both options make for hearty entrees as they are served with coleslaw, white bread, and house-made pickles. My partner fell hard and fast for the baby back ribs, meat falling from the bone primed for dipping in the North Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce. I preferred the brisket, slowly smoked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. A hunk of brisket balanced atop the no-frills white bread capped with bread and butter pickles made for a deeply satisfying final bite of food.
My partner and I planned our return outing to Grove before we even finished our meal.
707.967.2500 | 500 First Street, Napa | ciaatcopia.com/grove
CIA Copia is open daily, weather permitting | 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.