Napa’s newest eatery isn’t really a newcomer; Foodshed Pizza & Pasta has just moved from a location in the industrial park near the Napa County Airport to a prime location for its takeaway food in north Napa at Trancas Street and Old California Way near Bel Aire Plaza. It opened Jan. 27.
In addition to being more convenient for potential customers, the operation has added considerably to its offerings, from added dinner menu items to wine, beer and spirits — and it will soon offer delivery for those as well as food.
Foodshed still serves the same pizza by the slice and pie, hot sandwiches, fresh salads, house-made pastas by the pound, and heat-and-serve main courses, but it has also added imported specialty food items.
Head chef Giovanni Guerrera and Sean Pramuk opened Foodshed Pizza & Pasta in July 2013; if the names are familiar, they formerly owned and operated popular Uva Trattoria Italiana before selling it to Aaron Diaz in 2009.
They didn’t want to just open another restaurant. They wanted to both serve tasty house-made food but also expand opportunities for at-risk youths and aspiring young chefs.
Since they opened at the airport, they’ve shepherded dozens of apprentices in the Foodshed culinary internship program. They’ve kept many on their own staff, but others have found work in different restaurants.
Foodshed donates all of its profits to the local nonprofit On The Move, a service agency that oversees and manages the internship program, including identifying and screening candidates among at-risk and low-income youths and immigrants desiring entrepreneurial experience.
Once selected, Foodshed interns work alongside culinary professionals for three months, learn the skills needed to work in the industry and receive job coaching. Upon successful completion of the internship, On The Move provides graduates with stipends and job placement assistance.
In the process, Foodshed has contributed more than $50,000 to On The Move.
“The idea is to teach healthy cooking while fostering leadership skills and economic self-reliance among those with barriers,” says Guerrera.
The new location is also a big advantage for the apprentices. “The fact that Foodshed is now in town means we’ll be able to attract more potential candidates for the program as it’s easier to reach by foot, bike and public transportation,” says Leslie Medine, co-founder of On The Move.
And with extended hours of operation, more interns will be necessary to Foodshed’s continuing success.
Guerrera admits that he jumped at the chance to move into the old La Favorita market space, but they first intended to keep both locations. They decided that would be too challenging, but another entrepreneur took over the old space at the airport as Napa Roots, and continues to serve the same food for local workers.
A detour through Italy
When the business partners sold Uva in 2009, Guerrera headed to Italy and cooked at the American Academy in Rome. He wasn’t there to teach Italians to make hamburgers and barbecue; the school focuses on the classics and arts, but has an intern program to immerse selected fellows into Roman cooking — and feed the other students.
Started by Alice Waters, the Rome Sustainable Food Project provides the community of the American Academy in Rome with a collaborative dining program that nourishes scholarship and conviviality. Guerrera readily admits that it was the inspiration for Foodshed.
One of the aims of the food program in Rome was to celebrate food from the region (Lazio) and Guerrera says that many of the foods he makes were inspired by that food. He doesn’t claim to be serving Roman food, however, but creating California food using local ingredients and Roman inspiration.
His pizza, for example, isn’t typically Roman, but from a specific restaurant in Rome, Gabriel Bonci’s Pizzarium. It is offered by the slice (pizza al taglio) as well as in large rectangles (it’s baked a meter long). It looks thick, but is a very light and airy bread with delicious toppings.
Guerrera makes it with three flours, from kamut wheat, stone-ground California whole wheat and malted flour. It uses a natural starter and he lets the pizza dough rise slowly for 24 hours, the bread for sandwiches 48 hours. “It’s an extremely wet dough,” he says, saying it is tricky to handle.
The selection of pizzas and other dishes is augmented by specials each day. Sometimes Guerrera has a chance to try something different, in one case a tripe tasca, while another is his take on a Hawaiian pizza with house-made ham, pineapple and jalapeño.
In addition to pizza, he offers “tascas,” thick bread rectangles that are split and filled like a pita.
In addition to the pizza, Foodshed offers a wide selection of fresh pasta by the pound and sauces by the pint from its “grab-and-go” retail case, which also contains main dishes to heat at home.
It also offers a changing menu of side dishes (contorni), soups and salads.
Those who save room for dessert can choose among a variety of freshly baked treats.
While their new spot is takeout only, Foodshed Take Away does offer several outdoor tables for customers’ enjoyment — although they’re not licensed to allow wine or beer with meals — and continues to provide off-site catering.
Looking back from only a short time, Guerrera says that he’s serving a lot more things other than pizza than he expected. “I thought it would be mostly pizza,” he says.
Foodshed Take Away is at 3385 Old California Way in north Napa. It is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. It is closed Monday. Call 255-3340.
For information, or to make a tax-deductible donation to the Foodshed Internship Program, visit FoodshedPizza.org.
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