Ahhh, Tra Vigne!!! It used to be so good! What happened? My friend, Lisa, wanted to have lunch at Tra Vigne the other day since she was in town visiting and hadn't been in about 15 years. Since I live in Marin, I've been to Travigne several times over the years, but I didn't have the heart to tell her that it just isn't the same as it used to be! I love Michael Chiarello, Tra Vigne's original executive chef/partner. I've even met him once in person. Unfortunately, when Michael left Tra Vigne in 2000 to open NapaStyle, things just have not been the same. I'm truly happy for his success, especially his newly opened Bottega last year, in Yountville.
The problem isn't necessarily the food. The main problem is the service!! We arrived on a Wednesday at around 2:45; late for a lunch, I know. But we were greeted by 2 hostesses, passed a manager on duty, plus the bartender and 3 servers. So, they were fully staffed for the 3 tables already seated outside, plus us as the one table inside. We must have waited 10 minutes before we were greeted. At that point, we weren't annoyed yet because we had not decided what we wanted yet, but seeing as we had both done our fair share of waitressing, etc, we knew this was going to be a bad sign. We ordered a glass of wine (we were on a mini vacation and staying overnight in Yountville, so we splurged), and she brought them back in a timely fashion. But, then we waited a good 20 minutes before she ever came back. We had our menus down, were looking around for help, the hostess, 2 servers, & the bartender were around, but no one seemed to notice that we were obviously in need of attention. Our server finally appeared and I thought she was coming toward us, but no, she walked out to the patio. She finally made her way over to us and we ordered 2 appetizers to start, held onto our menus for our entree. The Caprese salad arrived along with the Crispy Fried Squash Blossoms. Both arrived in a timely fashion and were beautifully presented. I loved the Burrata cheese and the heirloom tomatoes, but I wasn't a fan of the overly crispy squash blossoms. They were a little greasy and of nondescript taste.
Once we finished our entrees, we still had not seen our server again, and we were quite ready to order our appetizer. So, we waited. At this point, we finally were approached by a busboy who brought water. We finally asked for bread because we hadn't yet been offered it. I must say that our busboy, once he appeared, was very attentive and we appreciated that. He even brought over a small side table for us to put our menus and wine menu on because they were clearly taking up too much of our two-top table space.
Our entrees arrived about 10 minutes after we ordered, so again, the problem was not in the kitchen, although I will say that my entree was very salty. I had the Halibut Alla Picatta with spring peas, pea tendrils, and snow peas. Very difficult to spear with my fork; I gave up on it. It tasted like dirt, anyway. The halibut itself was cooked perfectly and very good, but the lemon-caper sauce was over powering and salty. My friend, Lisa, had the Maltagliati Verde, which is an herb infused pasta with slow cooked Sonoma lamb and Sangiovese wine sugo. She loved it and it was a large serving so she wasn't able to finish it. She saved room for the Tiramisu. I had a bite and it was delicious!
Although the food wasn't "bad", it just wasn't as good as I remember it being the first few times I dined there when Michael was around. The last few times were just ok. It seems like the menu is much smaller, too. But my main issue with Tra Vigne these days is the slow service! By the way, after our entree was served, we were introduced to a new server who would be taking over for Jaye, our original server (I had to look at the receipt to get her name! :). The service definitely picked up with our new server! But I just noticed that overall, the service was less than attentive. Staff just standing around not even aware of our needs is just bad service. Tra Vigne is so beautiful and its such a legend, so I wish they would pay attention to the service. There is just an "I don't care" attitude.