We only went out to eat once while in Napa, preferring to cook at home. But our one meal out was definitely a home run. Zuzu in Napa, CA is a tapas restaurant that has a full wine and beer list, serves tapas in the traditional Spanish small plate style and also has authentic sangria and paella on hand to satisfy any customer. I got to have dinner with two of my oldest friends (and bridesmaids), Ermentrude and Phryne. As well as my friend, Kimbrough, from Richmond, VA whose heart is as golden as her hair.
I know small plates are a bit of a fad right now but tapas have been around for much longer than they have been hip in the restaurant scene. There are a couple of different origin stories but my favorite is that King Alfonso X of Spain had some mysterious illness that prevented him from eating large portions. So instead he ate only small meals with wine. This trickled down to the common people and became so popular that to this day wine must be served with food and so small plates are an integral of Spanish food culture. In fact when I visit my family in Spain we stop at this small restaurant in downtown Malaga and eat their entire tapas menu (except the sweet meats). The picture below is circa August, 2014. We are full of food and wine and all smiles!
But back to Napa, 2018. When I was looking for restaurants I actually found two different tapas restaurants blocks from each other on Main St. After some research I decided we should try Zuzu and I am so glad we did. They don’t take reservations but after a short wait at the bar we were seated and able to cheers to an auspicious start to our Napa travels! They have a great wine collection and we enjoyed a lovely Tempranillo with dinner. But what’s better than Spanish wine with Spanish tapas?
The most difficult thing about tapas is trying to decide what to order. We decide to each pick 2 things and then threw in about three honorable mentions based on the staff’s recommendations. The staff was brilliant and knew exactly what order to brings things out in. They started with the cold items and slowly built up to the heavier offerings. It was the perfect meal and in true Spanish fashion took us over an hour to get through. Some of my favorite dishes were the seared rockfish, roasted beets, arugula and shaved truffle salad and calamari ceviche pictured below. I also loved the flat-iron steak and fried Manchego but by the time we got to the heavier dishes I had put my camera away so I could just enjoy the food and company.
Zuzu is a smallish two story restaurant and we were nestled under the stairs. It was perfectly cozy and intimate this way. And since I’m short I wasn’t even at risk of banging my head! I didn’t try the other tapas restaurant to give a fair comparison but the vibe we felt when walking past to get to Zuzu was definitely not as homey. I think we made the right choice. Although speaking of choices we couldn’t decide what to get for dessert so we just got one of each!
Clockwise from the top we have a chocolate cream de pot, a caramelized apple empanada, a basque cake and a piece of heavenly tres leches cake. Despite the 12 small plates prior to this all four dessert plates were completely cleared. I can’t say enough how much I loved this meal. If you ever find yourself hungry in Napa and unsure where to eat I think you must go to Zuzu!