Loveski, a new fast-casual restaurant from chef Christopher Kostow — of the three Michelin-starred the Restaurant at Meadowood and the Charter Oak Restaurant in Napa Valley — and his wife Martina Kostow, is set to open inside Napa’s Oxbow Public Market by the end of the year.
The new restaurant comes on the heels of a turbulent year for the Kostow: The Restaurant at Meadowood, a three-Michelin-star restaurant inside the St. Helena resort, burned to the ground in the devastating Glass Fire in September 2020, prompting an outpouring of grief and condolences — and the emergence of a troubling narrative of a toxic workplace. The San Francisco Chronicle spoke to former employees who said Kostow “berated young cooks, threw plates and created a culture of fear.” Others said the environment was “fairly standard for ultra fine dining restaurants.” Kostow declined to comment on the allegations at the time but tells the Chronicle he plans to reopen the Restaurant at Meadowood in spring 2022.
With Loveski, the chef is drawing inspiration from his roots. Named after Kostow’s family’s pre-Ellis Island last name Kotslovski (like many European surnames, it was shortened upon entering the States), Loveski will be a “Jew-ish” deli. Kostow emphasizes the “ish,” because while Loveski will showcase traditional Jewish dishes and flavors, it’ll have a farm-forward, California twist — think thin-sliced roast beef sandwiches with horseradish and pickled beets. Just like with Meadowood and the Charter Oak, Kostow plans to source heavily from the same Napa farm that provides produce to his other restaurants and utilize in-house fermentation. The restaurant is taking the place of Fieldwork Brewing, located at the front end of the Oxbow, which Martina Kostow calls a “quintessential Napa Valley destination.”
“We’re not trying to be hyper-traditional. We’re not trying to do this faux New York or faux Eastern European homage,” says Kostow, who grew up noshing on bagels and lox and big pastrami sandwiches. “These flavors and products can have a lot of relevance in the modern world. We’re in California, this is 2021 and we want things to be a little funkier, a little lighter and we want to bring more diverse people into this sort of Jewish cooking. I think there’s something really powerful there.”
This departure from the typical yet beloved Jewish deli (like the famous Katz’s Delicatessen in New York or Langer’s in Los Angeles) is partly why Kostow hired Kipp Ramsey as chef. Ramsey was previously at Napa Valley’s Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. “He’s southern and he’s coming at this with a totally different perspective, or a lack of perspective, of Jewish cooking,” Kostow says. “That was sort of intentional. I didn’t want it to be a super geeky deep dive. Let’s air it out a little bit.”
The Kostows have been in talks with Oxbow for several years about joining its coveted list of vendors, and while there will be limited seating available, Kostow says Loveski is designed for quick in-and-out service that’s “not going to kill the wallet.”
“We have two very large, intensive restaurants, so the idea of doing something much smaller and efficient has been attractive for some time, and is even more so now, mid-COVID,” he says. “It’s going to be a fun space. The goal is that it’s an experience that elicits a smile.”
The Restaurant at Meadowood remains closed following the fire and allegations of being a toxic work environment, but Kostow’s other restaurant, the Charter Oak, is open. Kostow also operates Ensue, a fine dining restaurant inside the Futian’s Shangri-La Hotel in China in 2019. Loveski is expected to open by the end of the year, but the restaurant will be offering a preview of its menu at the BottleRock Napa Valley festival, taking place September 3 through September 5.
Update: August 25, 2021, 11:24 a.m.: This story has been updated to include information about allegations of a toxic workplace environment at the Restaurant at Meadowood.