Skip navigation
Squash Blossom Bucatini and Sant Barbara Sea Urchin AlilaFoodandChefbyAlexanderRubin0285.jpg
The menu at Violetto leans into the rich food traditions of Northern Italy.

Chef Thomas Lents discusses his new restaurant, Violetto in Napa Valley

The St. Helena restaurant features the chef’s culinary background in Italian and French cuisines as well as the bounty of California

On May 16, Violetto, a new all-day dining restaurant, opened in St. Helena, Calif., at the Alila Napa Valley resort. Culinary director and executive chef Thomas Lents, formerly of two Michelin-starred Sixteen in Chicago, brings more than 20 years’ experience to the project, and recently discussed what’s new about it.

How do you see yourself as a new addition to the culinary landscape of the Napa region?

As a chef, my culinary journey has been greatly influenced by the rich traditions of Italian and French cuisine, as well as the bountiful local ingredients of California. The diverse inspirations I've drawn from, including the esteemed chefs I've had the privilege to learn from, have all contributed to shaping my own unique culinary narrative.

Who are the key team members behind this restaurant?

General manager Zachary Dortenzio and me. With both have our deep understandings of what it takes to deliver a truly exceptional guest experience. We're committed to creating a dining destination that will bring a new depth to the culinary scene in Napa Valley.

What is driving you in terms of menu development?

We are inspired by the bountiful region surrounding St. Helena, the storied culture and traditions of Northern Italy and Southern France, and how they have influenced the Napa Valley. We want to convey that story through a distinctly innovative Californian vision. To bring this to life, I've developed a menu honoring Northern Italy's rich traditions by highlighting quality local ingredients in simple, beautifully executed dishes using classical techniques with a modern spin. We source exceptional produce like asparagus, peas, and artichokes from regional farms and our own garden, as well as meats and other provisions from esteemed purveyors like Tenbrink Family Vineyards, Iaccopi Farms, Liberty Ducks, Masami Cattle Ranch, and Passmore Ranch.

Are there any signature dishes you are especially excited to share?

We've developed the menu at Violetto by leaning into the rich food traditions of Northern Italy, which are rooted in highlighting the quality and abundance of local ingredients in simple, beautifully executed dishes. We're also implementing classic techniques and the best of everything Northern California has to offer.  While the seasonal menu evolves, a signature dish representing our philosophy is the handmade agnolotti pasta that utilizes all the game bird and vegetable trimmings along with a broth from the rinds of our aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s a simple but deeply satisfying dish that showcases our commitment to limiting food waste while creating something great. 

What makes this community the right place for this concept?

The influence of the Italian and French on the origins of Napa Valley very much mirror my path as a chef so far, and the direction I plan to continue in. Being inspired by those cuisines and the great chefs I have had the opportunity to learn from have positioned me to tell my own version of the story. The Napa Valley is blessed with tremendous products, from the grapes to the produce and game, but it is the people of this community that make it truly magical, and we are excited to have our humble part in the fabric of this community.

How do you think the design of the space will impact the dining experience?

We have joined forces with the acclaimed design firm Yabu Pushelberg, curating an atmosphere that perfectly complements the cuisine. Violetto’s design exudes a blend of elegance and modernity yet maintains a welcoming familiarity with rustic undertones that harmonize with the elegant and beautifully executed dishes gracing our tables.

What is the expected average price point for diners, without drinks?

Violetto has three different dining options. A four-course prix-fixe menu that features multiple selections for each course is $95 per person. The full Violetto experience features a seven-course menu at $130 per person with an optional wine pairing for $95. The Violetto lounge also offers many of our favorite dishes à la carte for those in the mood for just a bowl of pasta or a few snacks over a glass of wine. Violetto is also open for lunch with a three-course menu at $45 per person and à la carte offerings as well. Brunch service is also available on weekends.

TAGS: Chefs Owners
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.