A Phoenix Princess Arises: The Restaurant at CIA

Mar. 1, 2017 | by Jim Beazley

There’s a new Phoenix Princess of a restaurant in Napa.

First it was the brainchild of Robert and Margrit Mondavi and international culinary celebrity Julia Child was its godmother.

Begun with high hopes and even higher debts in 2001, this Phoenix took flight only to crash into the funeral pyre that was Copia, the American Center for Wine Food and the Arts in 2008.

It wasn’t that “Julia’s Kitchen” didn’t succeed; diners with reservations were greeted by a death notice taped to the darkened restaurant’s door. The last living entity of a failed venture pulled down into the flames.

And so Copia slumbered for eight long, sad years. Its fate snared by the bond holding company who had guaranteed the huge debt. They tried to re-coop their losses with schemes as wrong as they were guaranteed to be rejected locally.

Finally, in 2016 a gift appeared in the form of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). The CIA was born in up-state New York but has a castle in St. Helena called Greystone. The CIA bought the empty shell of Copia and reopened the restaurant now simply named The Restaurant at CIA Copia.

The Beazley family was invited to a “test flight” of this latest Napa eatery in early December last year. The food, while delicious, was delivered with a “dim sum approach” which was as confusing to the staff as it was to us. A waiter would appear with a platter of food and offer it to the table. Trouble then was that too frequently there wasn’t enough for everyone, or couldn’t be eaten (not gluten free) or didn’t appeal. While we were complimentary guests and not paying, the suggested prices were as confusing as the delivery. This service style continues to this day, but with staff’s practice and familiarity it has been adopted as joyfully as a favorite child.

According to Michael Bauer San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic, “the executive chef, Christophe Gerard, cooks up batches of food and the staff takes it from table to table to see who bites.”

And the sophisticated clientele of the CIA know all about “dim sum” and great food and eagerly devour the 18 or so dishes on each day’s menu, and damn the cost!

So a Phoenix has arisen from the ashes of Copia and we shall see how high she’ll fly.

How to get there: The Restaurant at CIA Copia, 500 1st St, Napa, CA, 707-967-2555 or ciarestaurantgroup.com. Lunch 11 a.m-2:30 p.m. Dinner 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday.

When staying at the Beazley House, be sure to let your Innkeeper know if you’d like reservations for an experience at The Restaurant at CIA Copia – we’re more than happy to accommodate your reservation requests.