BUSINESS REVIEW - CONTIMO PROVISIONS
By Craig Smith
When you first walk into Contimo Provisions and check out the menu, you might think you’ve just entered a breakfast/lunch place, with a good selection of biscuits and sandwiches. Eat anything on the menu though, and you’ll know that Contimo Provisions is far, far more than that. “When I finally made it (to Contimo Provisions),”said Anna Roth of the San Francisco Chronicle, “I understood what had gotten everyone talking. These are sandwiches and cured meats made with care and respect.”
The lunch menu includes five or six sandwiches, but those change with the season. “We only make BLT’s for about three and a half weeks a year, because that’s when tomatoes are at their best,” said co-owner Ryan Harris. Their tomatoes come from a Rusty Rake Farming Company in Coombsville of Napa, and Contimo orders daily.
And that’s just the tomatoes. Co-owner Kevin Folan has a passion for charcuterie, and does all the meat processing by hand. He learned about bacon from Allan Benton, amid other fascinating discoveries on a 7-week long research trip the two co-owners took prior to opening the business. Which was just a small window into their distinct desire for culinary knowledge.
Why do the owners go to so much trouble for a sandwich? “I think everything matters,” said Harris.
Both have extensive and varied food background. “My background is pretty much food, food and food,” said Harris. He did stints at The Restaurant at Meadowood, and Per Se, and other fine dining restaurants, while Folan worked at high-end French restaurants in Boston and New York. Each man came to California in answer to the siren song of seasonality. The pair met at the Fatted Calf, where they cemented their friendship along with their charcuterie skills.
So why, with all those high end creds, did they decide on a sandwich shop? “I was tired of working in places where I couldn’t afford to eat,” said Harris. “Not everybody can eat at a high end restaurant, but everybody eats sandwiches. There is enormous opportunity for creativity between two slices of bread.”
Take the Poached Chicken Sandwich ($13), which was my first selection at Contimo Provisions. The menu describes it as pasture raised chicken, sliced thin, with Meyers lemon marmalade, herb mayo and lettuce. Harris sliced the chicken on the spot, even wrapping the finished sandwich with precision. (“I drive new employees crazy. ‘Re-wrap it, re-wrap it.’”) The bread was perfect – not too thick or thin. The first bite revealed a sandwich that I can only describe as clean and balanced – I got tender chicken with both sweet and sour flavors from every bite. It was wonderful.
We make about 150 different types of sandwiches a year, keeping the menu seasonally fresh. We make a dozen different roast beef sandwiches alone,” said Harris. Wait – a dozen roast beef? Isn’t that kind of excessive? “There is so much you can do with roast beef. We have customers who wait for the next one to come out.” My next visit, I had the Bacon & Molasses Biscuit ($8.50). I’m North Carolina bred, have a lifetime of good biscuits under my belt, and know my way around bacon. Gauntlet thrown. Thrown right back at me as soon as I started eating. The biscuit was as good as anything grandma ever made, and the bacon – oh, the bacon! Perfectly cooked, with no stringy or greasy parts, and with a wonderful flavor. About twenty minutes after eating it, it occurred to me that it hadn’t left me thirsty, as some bacon does.
For dessert? Cookies, they make only one kind. Contimo uses heirloom grains (of course.) The oats in the chocolate chip cookies ($5 for 3 pack) date back to 1610. “When I tell you - you should have a cookie, you should have a cookie,” said Harris, a big smile on his face as he spoke.
You can also grab dinner to go. Browse their list of fine meats, provisions and pantry staples.
Contimo Provisions is in its fourth location in just six years. “We have a hermit crab growth model,” said Harris. They started selling sandwiches out of Napa Valley Traditions. When they closed, Miminashi chef/owner Curtis Di Fede invited them to sell from his soft-serve window. They later moved to Copia, and opened at their current location at 950 Randolph Street in Napa, just south of First Street, a couple of months ago. Eventually, their current location will be a larger multi-faceted concept. It will be their first location with a full kitchen and therein a broader menu. You’ll be able to have a post-work libation while grabbing hot dinner, or the provisions to prepare it yourself, in addition to breakfast and lunch they currently offer. The owners will make the next move when it makes sense.
Asked to describe what they do, Harris said, “Simple. Delicious. From Scratch.” Then with a laugh, he added, “We’re two food-obsessed dudes making the best sandwiches in town.”
Until COVID settles, they are open Wednesday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and are also at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturdays. Check out their site at contimonapa.com for the most up-to-date menu and hours.
950 Randolph Street | Napa | (707) 782-6424
Wednesday - Saturday | 8am to 2pm | contimonapa.com