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Goodbye Tra Vigne, Hello New Christopher Kostow Venture

The Restaurant at Meadowood's Christopher Kostow will be part of a new restaurant concept that takes over the Tra Vigne space on Dec. 20, 2015.

Tra Vigne restaurant in St. Helena will close Dec. 20, 2015. Photo: Scott Manchester

After nearly 30 years as one of Napa’s most legendary restaurants, Tra Vigne, will close Dec. 20. Despite months of rumors, news officially broke last week that the restaurant will shut its doors after property owner Bill Harlan decided not to renew the restaurant’s lease.

Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood. Chris Hardy
Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood. Chris Hardy

JUST IN: The space will be taken over by The Restaurant at Meadowood’s Chef Christopher Kostow and Restaurant Director Nathaniel Dorn for a yet-to-be-named restaurant project focused on more casual, celebratory dining experiences. Harlan is the owner of Meadowood as well as cult winery Harlan Estate.

Kostow plans to continue his role at the three-starred Michelin restaurant, along with wife Martina. “We will continue our work here, unabated, at The Restaurant at Meadowood. We are looking at this new project first and foremost through the lens of St. Helena and then through that of the Napa Valley as a whole,” said Kostow.

The new restaurant is slated for a 2016 opening.

While Napa awaits a newcomer, however, one of Tra Vigne’s first partners, Kevin Cronin, reminisced about the decades of celebrity sightings, life-changing introductions, and first jobs for many of Wine Country’s elite. A Wine Country institution, it was hub for up-and-coming winemakers in the Napa Valley, as well as a see-and-be-seen spot for celebrities throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

“A lot of big names started their careers there,” he said. Michael Chiarello was the first executive chef, if that’s any indication. And while the restaurant had lost some of its luster in recent years, the closure is a tough one for many to swallow.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Cronin, who left Tra Vigne in 2006 to open Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar with chef John Franchetti (also a Tra Vigne alum), but has kept close ties to the current partners. “It was like Camelot in the early days,” he said. “It was an epic time, and (the closure) is the end of an era,” he said.

The restaurant’s onetime guest list included Robert Redford, Robert Mondavi, Danny DeVito, and Francis Ford Coppola. Even Julia Child made an appearance once, asking to meet everyone in the kitchen and shake their hands. “She had an impact on every person she touched,” Cronin said. “She knew who she was supposed to be for people.”

Stories come easy for Cronin, who describes the property as one of the most beautiful in America. A life-changing moment for him: having dinner with Andre Tchelistcheff, one of California’s most important winemakers, credited with defining the enduring style of Napa wines. “He talked about pinot noir like sex. It was like magic, and one of the most amazing moments in my career,” he said. A large group of old-timers plan to meet at the restaurant on November 20th, Cronin said.

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5 thoughts on “Goodbye Tra Vigne, Hello New Christopher Kostow Venture

  1. Wow, my wife and I spent our honeymoon in the area and had great memories of Tra Vigne. We are returning for our 30th but it won’t be the same.

  2. Rabbit pappardelle ….buffalo mozzarella..heirloom tomatoes…one of the best meals of our lives! My husband and I for the last 8 years have made a trip to Napa and the only consistent restaurant we dine at has been Tra Vigne. Lunch on the patio with a newly purchased bottle of local wine has been a moment we look forward to every year. At least we are lucky enough to have enjoyed this gem while we could!

  3. simply stunned that it is gone…. so many memories, it was an anchorage in a friendly harbor of class and welcoming persona…. we shall not see the like of it again…. more than sad!

  4. Tra Vigne is my favorite restaurant in the world: extraordinary food, knowledgable and attentive but not obsequious servers, and a gorgeous wine-country building and patio alongside the railroad tracks that’s perfect on a summer afternoon. It’s affordable: $18 for a plate of ravioli or $26 for a meat entree, with free corkage on your first bottle if it’s from a local winery. It’s highly profitable but it’s closing. The official story is the building needs work, but the real reason (acc’d to our waiter) is its landlord wants to compete with The French Laundry and get a restaurant that can earn a Michelin star or two.
    So they’re shutting it down for a year to do a full makeover. I’ve been going there since the ’90s, and my wife and I had our rehearsal dinner there, so the place means a lot to us. We have an 8:30 res on their final night (Dec. 20) and we’ll be there til they shove us out the door.

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