For nearly a generation, the building at 813 Main Street in downtown Napa stood as silent witness to a sad chapter in the town’s history. Owned since 1945 by the Fagiani family, the building was a bustling bar and popular hangout until a fateful July night in 1974 when a young woman was murdered inside. Soon after, Fagiani’s Cocktail Lounge & Liquor Store was locked tight–some say with drinks still sitting on the bar–as the decades rolled by and her killer eluded police.
The building now faces a brighter future after New York-based design/hospitality group AvroKO rehabbed 100-year-old property, opening three story restaurant and cocktail lounge called The Thomas in August 2012
“We wanted to bring back the original character and keep with the history of the building,” says Chef Brad Farmerie walking through the construction-site in July.
Farmerie is executive chef of the critically-acclaimed PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole in New York. He, along with the restaurant’s sommelier and other executive staff moved to Napa to open the restaurant and plan opening menus.
“We’d be mistaken to think that we could impose our will on this historic venue,” he said. So over the last several months, they’ve consulted with locals, area chefs, ranchers and winemakers and Facebook fans to give input on the name and feel of the restaurant as well as learning about the best way to use and feature local ingredients.
The three-level restaurant includes a large retro-inspired bar, Fagiani’s Bar at the Thomas , and the original neon Fagiani’s sign will hang out front. The Thomas, which is what they’ll call the upstairs dining room, a reference to the building’s time as a boarding house called The Thomas, features an open-kitchen dining room and floating wine rack with about 1300 bottles. On the third floor, more dining space and an open-walled deck area that overlooks the Napa riverfront.
The menu is still in development, but Farmerie is especially excited about two things: An aged beef burger and lots of local produce. “The more I eat here realize the less I want to do with the food — the food and vegetables are insane here. The purveyors want you to try things while they are standing there. It was an epiphany just to eat an heirloom tomato,” Farmerie said. His staff have planted two small garden plots outside the former Copia, and are using the Julia’s Kitchen space to test their dishes.
The crew plans to introduce a hopping mixology program as well, with cocktails served until the wee hours.
Media preview dinners start in early August, followed by an anticipated opening soon after.