James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Chris Bianco — the legendary talent behind Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco, widely recognized as one of the best pizzerias in the country — is taking his talents and his team up to Northern California. As first reported by Robb Report, the chef will work on overhauling two restaurants on the property at the Carneros Resort and Spa, the upscale Farm and the more casual Market. Farm has been temporarily closed since April to undergo a renovation. It’s expected to reopen under Bianco’s influence later this year.
The chef says he wasn’t looking for an opportunity to break into the Northern California market, having already expanded to California with restaurants in Los Angeles last year. But Bianco already had a relationship with the Farm team, who come into his more upscale Italian restaurant Tratto in central Phoenix from time to time. When they asked if he’d be interested in working with them at Farm, the opportunity made sense. “I definitely wasn’t looking for opportunities,” the chef says. “And I’m not really into doing cookie-cutter Tratto [locations]. But it was my first restaurant to really build for the next generation of chefs. As I get older I see myself more as, you know, you go from player to coach.”
This underscores how the chef sees this project: a way for him to continue showcasing the talents of the younger chefs in his team and in the industry at large. The chef says he’s “never been really good at titles,” but confirms there will be a chef de cuisine in place at Farm, though he’ll work closely on all aspects of the restaurant. “I guess I’m an influencer,” he says with a laugh. “Even at the pizzeria, I'm an influencer. I’m responsible. That’s the way I see it in those restaurants.” He plans to take what he says was already a great restaurant — and aim to make it better by bringing over some of what’s made his previous restaurants such a success.
Before fans of the chef’s pizzas such as the red onion and pistachio-topped Rosa or the olive-studded Sonny Boy, with those thick coins of fennel sausage, get too excited — that there won’t be pizza at the revamped Farm restaurant. Rather, the chef says he’s looking forward to pulling inspiration from how he’s developed the Tratto menu, which was the chef’s first restaurant to not serve pizza when it opened in 2016. Bianco says he’ll harness what’s growing in the resort’s existing garden and partner with the many excellent local growers and producers in Napa Valley to create a menu that gives diners a real sense of place. “I think it’s about taking that name, Farm, and applying a little bit more when possible the depths of that,” Bianco says.
Market, the resort’s self-described “general store,” already serves pizzas though. There, the chef says he’ll work on developing a style of pie that’ll be unique to the food and beverage outlet. Those who’ve followed the restaurateur’s steady restaurant expansion have seen this play out before; the chef has toyed around with various pizza styles over the years, including small pizzette with thick crusts at a now-closed Pane Bianco location and floppy, New York-inspired slices in Los Angeles.
As for the possibility of a Pizzeria Bianco or Pane Bianco in San Francisco down the line, Bianco says he’d never rule it out — even if it’s not on his radar now. “I would never say never,” the chef says. “I don't say never anymore. But it’s not my plan.”
Farm at Carneros (4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa) will reopen in fall 2023.