Napa is the New Kid on the Block in Great Barrington
My friend the Berkshire Babe could not believe her eyes. A former habitué of the Union Bar & Grill when it was Great Barrington’s undisputed hotspot several years ago, she had fond memories of the hard-edged post- modern decor that had provided the town with a shot of urbane energy. So when she walked into the old Union space, which is now a three-week-old restaurant called Napa (and no relation to the Napa in Lenox) her first reaction was shock when she saw that the massive metal wall sculpture by Joe Wheaton of Becket, MA, had been painted over with a landscape scene. “What have you done?” she asked the startled maître d’, who looks like he’s an artist himself but knew nothing about the sculpture’s history. [Reached by email in Africa, Joe Wheaton told Rural Intelligence: “It’s hard for me to judge whether they have improved it from here in Djibouti. I’ll hope for the best.”]
Once the Berkshire Babe had a glass of wine—a reasonably priced Côtes du Rhône that the solicitous maître d’ recommended—she calmed down and looked around the room whose walls had been glazed the color of a ripe peach. She admired the jaunty striped shades on the hanging lights over the bar and how the pink-and-red biomorphic pattern on the menu matched the curtain wall in the back. Her grimace morphed into a smile. “I guess the decor is supposed to make you feel happy,” she theorized.
The attractive wait staff [left] is eager to please and seems to take a proprietary interest in the restaurant’s success. Owner Heidi Handel, a typically frazzled working mother, says she wanted to create a place where her friends and neighbors would feel at home, with or without their children. “My demographic is me,” she says. “I wanted this to be a place you could eat two or three nights a week.” To keep diners from getting bored, she put together an eclectic menu with Tom Lee, who used to cook at Verdura: upscale burritos ($15), meatloaf ($17), pisatchio-encrusted tilapia ($19), and lamb chops with Merlot sauce ($22). There are expertly fried oysters served with a tangle of frisée in a tart vinaigrette ($11), a “California Caesar salad” with feta and golden raisins ($8), and a deconstructed half- or full-rack of baby back ribs ($15/23) that comes with slaw and fries.
The dessert menu has not yet been printed, but the waitstaff likes to rhapsodize about the cookie plate ($7). You learn that the cookies are baked by a waitress named Klara Sotonova, who grew up in the Czech Republic and uses her grandmother’s family recipes for rum balls, linzer tortes and hazelnut kolaches. You learn that Klara is not shy, and she stops by the table to let you know that her cookies are sold at Guido’s and The Triplex as well. “Are those your macaroons?” asked the Berkshire Babe. “I love those macaroons.”
The cookie plate had worked its magic on the Berkshire Babe. She went home happy, vowing to return soon.
293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA; 413-528-4311
Lunch: Monday - Sunday 11:30 - 3
Dinner: Monday - Sunday 5 - 10