Thomas Keller's Quick Guide to Napa

Celebrity chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry shares his tips for exploring Napa Valley.

Thomas Keller
Photo: Deborah Jones

Superstar chef and unofficial mayor of Yountville, Thomas Keller reigns over The French Laundry, the bistro and bakery Bouchon, and his casual offshoot Ad Hoc, known for its cult fried chicken nights. In recent years, the Keller restaurants empire has expanded to include Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge and Mexican restaurant La Calenda.

Here, the Napa powerhouse shares his favorite local spots, along with wine touring tips to help you get the most out of your trip to California wine country.

Best Italian: Oenotri

"Oenotri in downtown Napa is a great, simple restaurant that I like a lot," said Keller. "Great pizzas and great salads." Executive chef Tyler Rodde changes the menu almost every day, channeling southern Italy's respect for pizza and vegetables. The restaurant often combines both, as in a pie topped with wood-oven–roasted cauliflower. Defying local tradition, sommelier Christina Stanley mostly focuses on Italian wines.

Affordable Lunch: Tacos Garcia

Fast and budget-friendly meals can be hard to come by in an area with such a high concentration of world-class restaurants. Keller has one favorite insider pick: "I like the Tacos Garcia truck. It's just very simple beef burritos," he said. The truck can typically be found on Washington Street near Yountville Park.

Wine Touring Tips

"It really depends on someone's sophistication about wine, " said Keller. "Going to Mondavi or Franciscan is a great way to begin, as opposed to trying to get into boutique wineries where you have to make an appointment beforehand. If you can make the time, Ann Colgin of Colgin Cellars in St. Helena produces beautiful Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blends that are exemplary of the terroir of Napa Valley."

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