When the doors at 813 Main Street in downtown Napa open for business on Wednesday, August 8, it will be for the first time in nearly 40 years. The Thomas restaurant and its street-level Fagiani’s Bar are closing the circle on a piece of Napa history and ushering in a new era for the town.
Much has been made of the revitalization of downtown Napa. And some of it is even deserved. While a handful of earnest, dedicated and locally-owned restaurants and bars like Zuzu, Carpe Diem and (now old-timer) Angele are working hard to preserve the integrity of the town while also livening it up, other celebrity chef and corporate-owned establishments like Tyler Florence’s debacle (and not defunct) Rotisserie & Wine and the very popular Morimoto add flare without any real substance. The arrival of New York City-based design firm and hospitality group AvroKO in the historic Fagiani’s Cocktail Lounge & Liquor Store on Main Street has solicited skepticism and controversy. While understandable, given the tragic history of the building, such doubt in this case is misguided.
If there is one thing that AvroKO does well, it is breathe life into dead, dying or dated spaces. “We like to mine history,” says Adam Farmerie, one of the group’s principals. In New York City, where tearing things down and starting from scratch — a favorite pastime in the newer-is-better-obsessed west coast — is typically frowned upon, AvroKO has earned a reputation for creating modern, comfortable spaces while honoring the building’s past in places like Public (which has earned a Michelin star and a James Beard Award) and Saxon + Parole.
Fagiani’s, which was boarded up and all but abandoned after the robbery and murder of Anita Andrews, the original owner’s daughter, in 1974, needed more than just a fresh coat of paint. Thanks to the careful work of the building’s new owner Steve Hasty, much of the structure and even the décor has been salvaged. The wood floors have been sanded and restored, original white brick peeks out from behind the glass wine cellar and second-floor roof jousts are living another life as the floor of the newly added third floor (which has an open-aired patio with an incredible view of the Napa River). The original Fagiani’s signage is glowing again and while the bar itself could not be saved, its stools and rail were.
But while honoring the heritage of the building and, to some extent, the vision of its former owner, The Thomas, as the restaurant will be called (also the name of the original boarding house restaurant founded in 1945), is not about dwelling on the past. “We basically don’t have any new ideas,” laughs Farmerie. “So we just take old ideas and make them new again.” The revival of the building itself is just one way in which they are making old ideas new again. The cocktail list is focused on freshening up classics like the Pimm’s Cup and the Negroni. Bartender and Cocktail Director Naren Young says the opening menu will focus on “light aromatic cocktails abundant with seasonal fruit.” House-made tonic and soda water and hand-cut ice are a testament to his obsession with detail.
The menu, developed by AvroKO’s Executive Chef, Brad Farmerie, demonstrates the same attention to detail, freshness and seasonality. A raw bar, spilling with West Coast oysters, Monterey Bay squid and bright red crayfish will be displayed prominently in front of the open kitchen. A crudité of fresh, pickled and roasted vegetables called “Ric’s picks” in honor of the farmer who grows them will change daily and, served with a creamy black truffle baba ghanoush, is an example of the light but satisfying cuisine you can expect to find.
The Thomas is taking what the New York City dining scene is known for — fun, casual atmosphere and beautifully designed spaces — and using it to showcase the abundance of produce, meat and seafood that California is famous for. Another important hole in the Napa restaurant scene they'll is the need for all-day and late-night dining. The bar will be open (and serving food) until midnight during the week and until 2 am on Friday and Saturday.
The Thomas will be open for dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m., with a late night menu served at the bar from 10 p.m. to midnight. Brunch will be served on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Saturday, August 11, and lunch, launching September 3, will be served on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fagiani’s Bar at The Thomas will be open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar at The Thomas, 813 Main Street, Napa, California, 707-226-7821