Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café Opens in Downtown Napa
By Jenna Sanders
Don’t be fooled by the hush surrounding the opening of Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café. There is plenty to celebrate about the newest café to grace downtown Napa.
Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café threw open its doors to customers at the beginning of December 2019 in what had long been Molinari Caffe. The footprint left behind by Rick Molinari was already the exact fit new owner Jay Magsano was looking for. Small kitchen, large retail counter, and just enough space for locals and tourists to enjoy their pastries, sandwiches and coffee at one of the small tables scattered throughout the first floor, loft, and sidewalk outside the entrance.
Though Magsano is new to downtown Napa, he is a seasoned chef and restaurateur who studied hospitality in his home country of the Philippines, opened a restaurant in Japan, studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, and opened his first outpost of Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café ten years ago.
Magsano bakes the diversity of his experience into the spectacular pastries offered at Le Paris. As a classically trained French pastry chef, the flaky, buttery dough used for croissants serves as the foundation upon which many of his creations are built. Flavors from the Philippines are woven throughout the menu and hybrid creations like the cronut and cropuff represent the freedom that comes from baking French pastries in America.
Visitors to the café are treated to an array of beautiful pastries and desserts tucked behind the glass divide.
With sweet pastry options ranging from almond and chocolate croissants to fruit danishes, there is plenty for a pastry purist to devour. Savory pastry options include croissant dough braided with cheese and jalapenos, a daily quiche, and a daily empanada. Some of the more imaginative creations include a crème brulee brioche and a bacon maple cronut.
I visited Le Paris on the first Saturday morning of the new year. Downtown was quiet even at 10 a.m., but the café proved an exception. Tables were filled with couples and families sipping on coffee and sampling the pastries.
My partner and I, never two to shy away from a buffet of options, chose the chocolate croissant ($3.75), pork empanada ($4.25), bacon maple cronut ($4.00), and blueberry danish ($3.75). We took our pastries home, which ended up being fortuitous as there were no witnesses to see the carnage we inflicted upon the pastries we had every intent to merely sample.
Magsano serves as both owner and pastry chef at both of his Le Paris locations in American Canyon and Napa. Though he has a full culinary team supporting his endeavors, he continues to work in the kitchen daily and trains every member of his team personally.
His dedication to his craft shines. We were blown away by the precision of the pastries.
The doughs used for the fruit danish, cronut, and chocolate croissant were, in a word, perfect. What impressed me most about both the chocolate croissant and the blueberry danish was just how balanced these pastries were with savory and sweet elements.
Small chunks of chocolate were sprinkled throughout the croissant, rather than one big piece folded into the center. The danish featured a handful of real blueberries baked over sweet cheese filling, rather than the canned blueberry pie filling you’ll find in many bakery offerings. The natural sharp tang of the blueberry was countered by the rich, sweet cream.
The thick crust of the empanada cracked open to reveal shredded pork in a slightly sweet sauce. Our favorite part of the empanada was the outer edge of the crust, caramelized by the juices released while baking.
The bacon cronut was by far the most American and the sweetest of all the creations. I’d guess, given Magsano’s food philosophies, this was not an accident.
For those who missed the 2013 phenomenon that was Dominque Ansel’s cronut – this doughnut-croissant hybrid led to hundreds of foodies, hipsters, and people otherwise in-the-know, waiting in line for hours to get their hands on the must-have treat.
Great news for Napa Valley folks, no lines and minimal hipster interactions stand between you and the cronut of your dreams at Le Paris. This towering pile of fried croissant dough, drizzled with sugary glaze and sprinkled with finely diced bacon is not to be missed.
I was eager to return to Le Paris to sample their lunch offerings, in the name of journalism. The lunch selection is limited to 8 different sandwiches served on croissants along with a side salad. Classics like ham & cheese, BLT, and the turkey club are offered in addition to slightly more adventurous smoked salmon and adobo pork sandwiches.
I tried both the adobo pork ($9.75) and the turkey club ($11.50). Both sandwiches were served warm on a giant croissant. Magsano cooks chopped pork belly in a traditional adobo sauce. The result is a tangy, savory, and lightly sweet meat with a chewy texture. The warm meat is dressed with mayonnaise and topped with greens. The turkey club is as expected, a stack of turkey lunch meat, melted cheese, strips of bacon, slices of tomato and lettuce.
Though I will say – it’s challenging for a sandwich to shine on a backdrop as spectacular as Magsano’s croissants. I found myself taking bite after bite for the croissant rather than what was warm and gooey and tucked inside.
In two surely unrelated closing notes, my plants split this morning and I will be back at Le Paris on Thursday to collect macarons for my mother’s birthday.
828 Brown Street in Napa | 707-927-3623 | leparisartisan.com
Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.