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Going Back to Cali

Yearning for cuisine from the Golden State? Then head to Napa Flats and let them treat you to a hint of coastal-inspired California dishes with an Italian flair.

Donna Leahey
Valerie Grant
September 29, 2017

You don’t need a plane ticket to California to experience the beauty of a trip to Napa Valley; we have our own taste of dining in wine country right here on Riverside Drive in Tulsa. Napa Flats is a treat for the eyes, taste buds, and soul.

Rather than hills and vineyards, Napa Flats’ spacious windows overlook a spectacular view of the Arkansas River. The interior is open and inviting. A wine jail filled with bottles lines one wall by the hostess stand as the scent of wood smoke flavors the air, and soft pop music plays over the speakers. High ceilings, hanging lights, and walls lined with windows create a casual and peaceful hideaway from the stress of your life. On nice days, the open air of the patio overlooking the river is a perfect way to unwind. At Napa Flats, you’re on vacation.

Owner and operator John Crancer’s pride in Napa Flats is obvious in every word and glance. With 28 years in the restaurant business, he talks confidently and passionately about Italian-made gelato equipment, the pizza oven, fresh herbs, and the kitchen’s ability and willingness to cater to special needs.

Napa Flats has been serving up California-themed cuisine with an Italian flair since 2014.

“The pizza oven is the heart of the restaurant,” says Crancer. “The fire has not gone out for over three years. We’re closed on Mondays, but I still come in and put wood on the fire.” Anything that comes out of the kitchen grilled or roasted is prepared over that fire and flavored delicately by it.

Lamb Chops (Photo: Valerie Grant)
Lamb Chops (Photo: Valerie Grant)

“We’re a 100 percent scratch kitchen. Even the gelato is 100 percent made from scratch,” he says. “No batch mixes, and it’s made with all Italian equipment.”

If you have special needs, Crancer takes pride in Napa Flat’s ability to accommodate. “We’re one of the most gluten-free-friendly kitchens in Tulsa. Vegetarians, vegans, almost anything is doable,” he says.

With all that care, you’d expect some special food to come out of that kitchen, and you’d be right. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is Tony’s Bow Tie pasta, named after one of Crancer’s business partners. The pasta is cooked to a tender al dente and served with wood-fired grilled chicken, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, peas and red onions, all sautéed in housemade Alfredo. You might expect the sauce to make it a heavy dish, but it just adds a nice hint of creaminess to offset all the flavors and textures this dish brings.

Another popular item is the Citrus Chicken. Napa Flats starts with a pan-seared Frenched chicken breast — a boneless, skin-on breast with wing drumettes — and finishes it in the wood-burning stove before topping it with an exquisite lemon white-wine butter sauce. This sauce is perfectly light, creamy and tart. It sets off the nicely seasoned savory breast perfectly. The dish is served with sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes.

The rack of lamb is not just a hearty meal. “It’s the best value you’ll find on a lamb dish,” says Crancer. It’s his favorite item on the menu, and one taste will tell you why. The lamb is tender, dusted with Napa Flats’ secret seasoning, and served with a flavorful cabernet sauce, grilled asparagus, and garlic mashed potatoes.

That wood-burning stove is also home to some of the best pizza you’ll find. The dough is handmade and hand-stretched, the sauce is made from scratch, and every pizza is made when you order it. Of course, the traditional pizzas like cheese or pepperoni are fantastic, but consider the classic Margherita pizza. The mozzarella is made in-house — it doesn’t get any fresher. The basil is fresh-cut, and it’s topped with cherry tomatoes and roasted to perfection. All pizzas can be ordered with gluten-free dough.

At Napa Flats, high ceilings, hanging lights, and walls lined with windows create a casual and peaceful hideaway from the stress of your life. (Photo: Valerie Grant)
At Napa Flats, high ceilings, hanging lights, and walls lined with windows create a casual and peaceful hideaway from the stress of your life. (Photo: Valerie Grant)

The sandwich menu features an amazing Bakersfield cheddar burger and a meatball panini, but the flats are where Napa Flats shows it’s California flair. The steak flat is tender beef tenderloin with sautéed mushrooms and onions bringing the flavor, and topped with chimmayo spread, romaine, tomatoes, and that fresh housemade mozzarella, all on toasted flatbread. All the sandwiches are served with homemade potato chips, which are crisp, hearty, and fresh from the kitchen.

If you’re in the mood for a starter, Napa Flats has some unique options. There’s the wood-fired avocado, the spicy Chonburi Shrimp, or the Napa Queso, but consider the Palo Alto Dip. This savory dish is made from sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and scallions blended into cream cheese and ricotta. It’s served with bread and must be tried to be believed.

When you’re done, Crancer suggests the tiramisu. “It’s the best I’ve ever had,” he says. It’s creamy and soft and sweet with coffee and Kahlua flavors bringing it all together. The sweet treat is dusted with cocoa to finish it off.

For those who prefer gluten-free, try the flourless brownie. There’s seasonal cobbler and banana crumble made in the wood stove, and don’t forget that housemade gelato, served with many of the desserts or as a dessert on its own.

If you enjoy wine with your meal, Napa Flats has four reds and four whites on tap. “Every time we pull that tap handle, it’s like opening a new bottle,” he says.

Napa Flats is also available for catering. “Everything from drop off and pickup buffet to full service,” says Crancer. They can handle weddings to office parties to luncheons. Whatever you need, Napa Flats’ catering service can handle.

Napa Flats Wood-Fired Kitchen
9912 Riverside Parkway | Tulsa
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.