>> Wednesday, June 18, 2014
This is the sixth post in the Quick Weekend Getaway to Napa / Sonoma Series. Other posts in this series include: Benzinger Family Winery, Jack London State Park, Mayo Family Winery, Crisp Bake Shop, and Napa Wine Train.
I often wonder what it's like to actually live in Napa or Sonoma Valley all year round. You're surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the world. There's tons of gorgeous produce around. And the access to wine . . .
But then I realize that living there like a tourist is very different from living there like a local.
I doubt the locals line up at Bouchon Bakery every morning. And who has the time (or money?) to eat at The French Laundry or Etoile every day for dinner?
At the end of the day, I bet life in wine country is not that different from (dare I say it) life in many other cities in America. Most people cook sometimes, dine out at their favorite local spots, and occasionally treat themselves to special meals.
The Red Grape is one of those places that locals frequent.
Situated right in Sonoma Square, the Red Grape is a neighborhood restaurant that focuses on thin crust pizza but also offers salads, sandwiches, grilled meats, and pastas. Owners Sam and Carol Morphy, obssessed with New Haven style pizza, moved to Connecticut for a year to research this pizza and its elusive thin crust. After a productive year in the East Coast, they moved back to Sonoma to open up the Red Grape ten years ago.
This place is conveniently located, reasonably priced, and serves good food. It's kid-friendly, pet-friendly, and gluten-free friendly. It's locally focused: a lot of their ingredients are sourced from local businesses. The wine list consists mostly of California wines, with an emphasis on Sonoma. In general, the owners invest a lot in the community.
Bryan and I came here for dinner our second night in Sonoma after a long lunch on the Napa Wine Train and some stops at some local wineries in the afternoon.
The moment you enter you see the huge brick ovens in the restaurant. This is common in east coast pizzerias and is definitely a sign of a place that's serious about pizza.
Pies are made to order right in the front of the restaurant at an open kitchen. It's kind of fun to watch.
Check out how thin the crust is!
Because it was just the two of us it was hard for us to try that many pizzas. We got half and half:
On one side was the Traditional Margherita Pizza which was topped with house stretched mozzarella, fresh basil, and Parmesan. ($14.25). On the other side was The Works, which had their housemade sweet fennel sausage, pepperoni from Zoe's ( (a local meat company from Petaluma), applewood smoked bacon, roasted peppers, sweet red onion and garlic, and aged Parmesan. ($15.25)
Both pizzas were solid. The crust was definitely super thin (almost like a cracker!) and the bottom had just a slight bit of char (less than what I usually see, but there's a tiny bit). The thin crust makes the pizza much lighter, which I like. I found one of the pizzas (the Works, I think), to be a bit saltier than my preference. Other than that, the flavor of the toppings was pretty tasty.
Overall, their pizzas are not quite at the level of my favorite pizzas on the east coast, but they're definitely good. In fact, the Red Grape says on its website that it was voted best pizza in Sonoma by Sonoma Valley residents.
Surprisingly, one of my favorites actually turned out to be their Truffled Onion Rings ($9.95), which were phenomenal. Beer battered and thick cut, these onion rings were served with Parmesan, truffle oil, and crispy sage with a side of paprika tartar sauce.
These onion rings were super crunchy and had a lovely, aromatic truffle oil and sage aroma. The Parmesan added the right amount of saltiness to the crispy batter. We ordered this meaning to try just a taste, but we ended up polishing the whole thing off.
All pasta dishes are made with fresh pasta from Joe Wade of Wine Country Pasta in Sonoma. We loved this dish, which came with generous amounts of shrimp and crab cooked in white wine, garlic, and oil. The deep, rich seafood flavors in the sauce were fantastic and the pasta was perfectly cooked. Overall, it was an excellent dish. In fact, we liked it better than the pizzas.
Our dessert was simple - just a single scoop of gelato each. Simple, but it hit the spot.
We felt like a local that night as we enjoyed our East Coast style pizza, to-die-for onion rings, and excellent pasta. The place was packed with all sorts of people from around town. I saw at least one dog roaming around, and I saw lots of kids.
Overall, the food here is very good. We loved our onion rings and really enjoyed the crab pasta. The pizzas are solid, and if I weren't from the East Coast, I probably would say they were the best thin crust pizza around. It's fun that they have a Sonoma twist on the pizzas, sourcing the toppings from various local purveyors.
The Red Grape
529 1st St
W Sonoma, CA 95476
Disclaimer: This trip was set up for me by the Sonoma Valley Visitor's Bureau. Bryan and I did not pay for the dinner. All opinions are my own.