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Front of the House: Oenotri

Located in the heart of Napa’s new downtown culinary mecca, Oenotri offers authentic dishes from southern Italy.

(pronounced oh-no-tree) serves up unique specialties inspired by the cuisine of southern Italy.

Everyone I talk to loves the pizza. Made in the authentic Neapolitan style and adhering to all the rules of the DOC of pizza in Italy, the dough is hand-rolled with only simple, pure ingredients. Cooked at 850 degrees in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy, it’s a delicious experience.

But if you have a sense of culinary adventure, don’t stop with the pizza.

A separate Salumi menu features Italian cured meat products that are similar to French charcuterie and handcrafted in house. All the pasta is made fresh daily, and occasionally they offer family-style entrees (call ahead to inquire about availability).

I recently caught up with General Manager Lauren Duncan to discuss her passion for everything Oenotri creates.

Julie: How do you describe Neapolitan pizza?

Lauren: It’s mainly about the dough, which only contains four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast.  It must be mixed by hand or with a slow mixer (no heat), hand-stretched, and yields a high, soft cornicione (border). The toppings should be basic but flavorful, meant to showcase the dough while simultaneously standing alone in their freshness.

Julie: How important is authenticity to the other dishes on the menu?

Lauren: Authenticity is important, but we do allow room for creative freedom. Not every dish is strictly southern Italian; northern elements and flavors are often introduced to create new variations.

Julie: Where does inspiration for the menu come from?

Lauren: Italian tradition definitely plays a large part. And it’s easy to find inspiration from sourcing local ranches, nearby waters, and our own garden.

Julie: Tell me about the house-made salumi.

Lauren:  Salumi is any type of Italian cured meat, primarily made of pork.  There are many different variations; some more popular ones are pancetta, prosciutto, salami, and even pepperoni.

Julie: I wasn’t familiar with salumi before. How does your staff entice people like me to try something new?

Lauren: By explaining the details behind our salumi program. Like the fact that our salumi is made in-house, through our whole animal butchery program.

Julie: Your servers are certainly well versed on the menu.

Lauren: They’re essentially your “tour guide” through the menu.  And no one likes a tour guide with no information. Our menu changes between ten and sixty percent daily, so each shift they must come in prepared to use what they have learned and apply it to something new.

Julie: You have a lot of Italian wines on the menu.

Lauren: Luckily we have very skilled sommeliers ready to answer any and all questions. This can be challenging, as there are hundreds of different grape varietals in Italy.

Julie: There is so much competition in Napa now. How does it help or hinder your business?

Lauren: The more exciting downtown Napa becomes, the better everyone does. 

Julie: How would you describe your mix of local clientele versus tourists?

Lauren: We are fortunate in that we have built a strong local following that has kept us busy even in slower times.

Julie: How does your location impact business?

Lauren: Watching the West End develop has been amazing to witness.  The neighborhood has become more interesting with across the street and the next door, which increases foot traffic (always a good thing).  And having a high-end hotel, , directly across the way has been wonderful for business.

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