Yes, Fleetwood is a Napa wine country restaurant, but the menu is not book-length. Winemakers come to eat after long days in the vineyard, and servers are friendly. We felt relaxed and comfortable here without feeling pressured to pair our meal with library wines or try the latest 15-course tasting menu.
Fleetwood fits right into the ambiance of Calistoga. This northern Napa town with a Wild West feel offers newly renovated mud bath resorts and more casual eateries and stores than many of the boutique establishments in St. Helena and Napa. Located right off the resort and winery-filled Silverado Trail on the eastern end of Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga’s main street, the restaurant is a close bike ride to “downtown” Calistoga.
Fleetwood is the name of the iconic, mid-century Cadillac cars and reflects the restaurant’s venue at the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa. A restored array of 1950s motel rooms turned into luxury camper rooms, the lodge is family and pet friendly—and a great place to relax.
Located on the ground floor of the newer addition to the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa which also houses hotel rooms outfitted in mountain lodge décor, Fleetwood presents a welcoming entrance with inviting couches opening to the bar. Fleetwood’s Happy Hours on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday with craft cocktails, beer, and wine specials are especially cheerful in the venue.
To the left is the main dining room with the two-showcase wood-fired ovens at the back wall. Tall windows open to an expansive, garden-filled patio, replete with a firepit.
Much like the main menu, the drinks list is concise and well-executed. We chose the Mertillo, a not-too-sweet mix of Ginny’s Gin, huckleberry syrup, honey, lime, and tonic, named for the Italian word for huckleberry. Though several of the drinks are crafted in batches, the cocktails are creative and balanced. For example, the other drink we sampled was the Aero di Carta, an Italian-Fleetwood name for the classic Paper Plane cocktail. The bartenders replaced the very earthy and bitter amaro usually found in the drink with less earthy and less boozy sweet vermouth.
A standout of the five starters was the oak-grilled heart of romaine with caper berries, anchovies, and Caesar dressing. The warm smokiness of the romaine hearts contrasted with the crunch of the caper berries and anchovies and melted creamy strips of parmesan cheese.
No ordinary meatballs, the Fleetwood version is wood oven-roasted and packed with flavor. A mix of ground beef and pork, the meatballs are made with a pork crackling crumb product as a replacement for panko to present a gluten-free and moister option.
The list of “proteins” on the menu is small but mighty: oak-grilled salmon, rocky chicken breast, and striploin steak.
By this part of the meal, we sensed that the chef had a fine pedigree who knew what worked well with the simple and innovative yet classic Mediterranean fare. Drew Glassel has experience at Gary Danko in San Francisco, Market and former starred Cyrus in Sonoma, plus Roadhouse in St. Helena. With carefully sourced ingredients, many local or imported from Italy, Glassel lets the ingredients shine on their own without a lot of garnish or fussy elements.
The night of our visit we had a difficult choice between two pasta options. We selected the fontina and asiago ravioli with spinach. We liked the al dente bite and tomato sauce enriched with melted Parmigiano and garlic. The current option of rigatoni with grilled chicken, roasted peppers, mushrooms, capers, arugula, and white wine reduction sounds intriguing.
At the pizza section of the menu, we found our bliss. The thin-crusted buffalo mozzarella margarita pizza with tomato and basil was one of the best I’ve had since visiting Italy before the pandemic. With an optimum amount of mozzarella, not smothered and not skimpy, the fresh basil-topped pie had a pleasing crisp crust from the wood-fired oven. A winter offering hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, thyme, truffle caciotta cheese, and garlic oil sounds like a winner.
On the “protein” side of the menu are three hearty options: oak-grilled salmon, Rocky chicken breast with creamy polenta and glazed cippolini, and striploin steak with gnocchi and king trumpet mushrooms. We enjoyed the salmon and chicken and sides of Roman cauliflower with raisins almonds and capers and Brussels sprouts with Calabrian chile.
We had a challenge at dessert time, polenta cake with oak roasted strawberries and zabaglione sauce or cannoli with orange blossom mascarpone, amarena cherries, and pistachio. I wisely chose the cannoli. The cannoli are sourced directly from an Italian bakery in San Francisco and filled with a pleasing blend of not-too-sweet mascarpone, colorful cherry bits, and a crunch of pistachios.
After dinner, you can relax by the inviting fire pit on the patio. If you’re not too full, you can purchase the fixings for s’mores as a fun treat for a mere $3.00.
If you stay at the property after dinner at Fleetwood, you can enjoy the on-property amenities at the Calistoga Motor Lodge. We stayed overnight and enjoyed a CBD massage and quiet time in the relaxing garden at the adjoining MoonAcre Spa with the foothills of the Palisades mountains in the distance.
By late morning we were ready for a jump in the inviting pool. Refreshed and carrying good memories from our dinner, we reluctantly left Calistoga for home.
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Unless noted, all photos were taken by Deborah Grossman