Big news for downtown Napa's food scene today: The Thomas, the restaurant concept that New York design and hospitality firm AvroKO opened three years ago in the iconic Fagiani's bar space, will be closing later this month and getting a big food makeover at the hands of chef Matthew Lightner. The new concept, which the Chronicle is reporting will be open on August 1, is called Ninebark, and promises to take the place in a different, possibly more Midwestern-meaty direction.
Lightner, 35, was a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2010 after earning accolades at Castagna in Portland, and he went on to open the tiny Atera in New York and garner two Michelin stars. Lightner left Atera in March, telling the New York Times at the time that he was planning "to remain in New York and that he was hoping to create a high-end restaurant along with 'something casual and fun, comfort food' that would reflect his upbringing in Nebraska." It looks like he was lured to California instead, and the latter concept seems to be the most likely for Ninebark but then it sounds like he'll be opening a high-end restaurant next year, also with AvroKO, slated for an unnamed 1950s motel they're taking over in Calistoga (could it be The Sunburst?).
Fagiani's was famously the site of a 1974 murder and then remained closed for 37 years after that, and AvroKO turned it into a sleek, three-story restaurant and bar space in 2012 with a menu by Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie (of NY's Public). The place opened to a tepid Bauer review, noting the excellent design but subpar service and only two stars for Farmerie's food.
As the Chronicle also notes, Lightner has signed on to become AvroKO's west coast head of culinary operations as well.
Fagiani's / Ninebark - 813 Main Street, Napa