A whole pig was roasting under the arbor. Not far from it a substantial slab of salmon was resting on a cedar plank and garnished with a truffle cream and vegetables. Another table offered charcuterie and cheese and platters of flatbreads in flavors of burrata and basil, and local mushrooms and goat cheese. Circulating servers were offering crab cake sliders and ahi tuna tacos.
The challenge was to balance the plate filled such samples, with a cocktail, a generous glass filled with grapefruit juice and sparkling wine.
It’s summer in Napa.
This particular fete was an introduction to the newly reopened and re-envisioned Alba restaurant at Napa’s River Terrace Inn. After a six-month sojourn during which the restaurant was closed, chef Matt Grigg returned to Napa to oversee a menu he describes as drawing inspiration from the Pacific Northwest.
It also looks like the new menu is inspired by the adventurous chef’s travels around the U.S., from his native Tennessee, to Colorado, where he studied at Johnson & Wales University in Denver and worked at La Tour restaurant in Vail. From there Grigg moved on to Alaska for a year as chef at the Grande Denali Lodge in Denali National Park; it’s one of the two fine dining restaurants found on the 500-mile stretch between Anchorage and Fairbanks, he explained.
“I’ve worked both in the kitchen and in the front of the house,” Grigg said, something he feels makes it easier to bridge understanding between the two essential parts of a restaurant serving a clientele of international visitors and locals dropping in for dinner or a drink. “It’s good to have a well-rounded experience, to know both sides,” he said.
An avid outdoorsman, Grigg said he manages to get away from the kitchens from time to time, to bicycle and ski. But so far, after three years in Napa, he’s not been struck by wanderlust. “It’s the longest I’ve been in one spot,” he said, “But I like it here.”
New menu, new look
Grigg designed Alba’s opening menu to highlight summer’s local bounty and to be enjoyed on the new deck, outfitted with pergolas and gas pits and comfortable chairs overlooking an idyllic stretch of the Napa River.
Inside the space has been designed to highlight the river views as well, with floor-to-ceiling windows and modern new furnishings scattered around the central bar.
“It was a face-lift,” said Grigg. “It’s a new look, new menu, new kitchen staff, new servers.”
He emphasized that he hopes locals will drop in to explore and enjoy the new space, which is open now for breakfast, from 7-11 a.m., and dinner from 4-10 p.m. The bar is open from 3-10 p.m.
Breakfast menu items include the Alba omelet with tomato, asparagus, avocado and Hollandaise sauce ($13), huevos rancheros with crispy tortillas, black beans, red chile sauce, avocado and cotijas cheese ($16) and a crab and egg white frittata with sofrito, and Taleggio Cheese ($16).
Dinner offers small plates like summer corn chowder ($8), pork belly crepes with apple slaw and chipotle blackberries ($14) and lobster mac and cheese ($15) as well as shareable servings of items like truffle fries with lemon aioli ($7) and grilled shishito peppers ($7). Larger plates include a heritage pork chop with peach and mango chutney, with fresh corn polenta and asparagus ($29) and a pan-roasted half chicken with white bean ragout and rosemary chicken jus ($24).
Grigg has also devised light-hearted themes for different days of the week: Meatloaf Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wine-Down Wednesdays, Mule’s World-Tour Thursdays, Wine and Swine Fridays, Off-the-Grill Saturdays and Sangria Sundays.
The wine list includes both international selections as well as a substantial selection of Napa Valley wines.
Alba at the River Terrace Inn is at 1600 Soscol Ave. For reservations, call (707) 320-6911 or email the reservations team at Alba@riverterraceinn.com.