High Expectations for Pane E Vino…

With Providence Restaurant week officially underway, I decided to head down to Pane E Vino to enjoy a three-course dinner for $29.95. Located on Federal Hill, this popular Italian restaurant has received lots of praise recently. In 2011, Pane E Vino was named as the Best Restaurant in the State by Rhode Island Monthly…so I’ve been dying to check them out for myself!

I was looking forward to my reservation all week long (yes, all I think about is food). So I arrived with a big appetite and some high expectations. The question is…would Pane E Vino live up to the hype?

Insalata di Barbabietole -Farm Fresh Roasted Red & Gold Beets, Goat Cheese, Candied Pecans, Frisée, Pancetta Vinaigrette

OK, so I understand that this is Providence Restaurant Week and all, which means discounted prices, but four slices of beets? That’s all? Really?!!!

Aside from the size of the portion, the taste didn’t exactly blow me away either. The ratio of beets to goat cheese was completely off. There were a few crumbles of goat cheese and candied pecans haphazardly scattered on the dish. More of these two ingredients would have went a long way in terms of both flavor and texture.

Calamari FrittiPan Fried Point Judith Calamari, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, White Balsamic Vinegar & Tomato Aioli

Unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the Calamari because it was served undercooked and inedible. When I informed my server that the calamari was too raw, he said, “Oh OK.” Then he took my plate to the kitchen and never returned. I was never brought another plate of calamari. I was never even issued an apology either. “Oh OK”. What kind of a response is that??

Let’s be honest, Fried Calamari is not a difficult dish to execute. It’s on every menu at every restaurant in the world. Clearly, we were not off to a good start…

Pappardelle al ConiglioPappardelle Pasta with Slow Braised Rabbit, Green Olives, San Marzano Tomatoes

At this point, I was completely starving because all I had eaten were four small slices of beets. Luckily, the entree was a better portion.

The pasta was cooked well and I loved the sourness and saltiness from the green olives. I have to admit….the dish was loaded with tender, braised rabbit. There may have been more rabbit than pasta (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The only problem with slow cooking something as small as a rabbit is that there are lots of small bones. As a result, I may have preferred a different protein instead.

My only complaint was the amount of garlic. I found four cloves of garlic in my dish (you can actually see one in the lower left hand side of the picture above). Poor attention to detail…again.

L’Anatra – Roasted Duck Confit, Fig, Walnut & Mascarpone Ravioli, Cream Sauce

This is where our meal took a complete (and much needed) 180 degree turn. I finally tasted a dish that made me understand why Pane E Vino is the talk of the town. This entree had many depths of flavor. The sweetness from the figs and played well with the creaminess of the Mascarpone cheese. The nutty characteristics from the walnuts also provided a great textural contrast. Duck is the type of meat that tastes great when paired with other sweet ingredients…and this was no exception.

I actually imagined this dish to look different when I ordered it. I thought that the duck meat was going to be stuffed inside the ravioli. I was pleasantly surprised with how it was actually presented instead.

FINALLY, a dish with some finesse!

Housemade Golden Raisin Bread Pudding

This Bread Pudding tasted much different from any that I have ever tried before. It was crispy on the top while the middle had the texture of custard. It almost tasted like they brulee’d the top giving it a hard, crunchy upper layer. It was not overly sweet either (which is my preference when it comes to dessert).

I would highly recommend this dessert if you like Bread Pudding!

Housemade Tiramisu

Looks can be deceiving. Although this dessert appears to be decadent and delicious, it was actually a total letdown. Most Tiramisu is airy and moist while Pane E Vino’s version was soggy and wet. This might have been the worst Tiramisu I have ever tried.

***********

Well, it turns out that Pane E Vino didn’t measure up to our expectations. I understand that every restaurant is entitled to an off-night, which may certainly be the case here judging from all the awards and recognition that this acclaimed Italian restaurant has been given.

It crossed my mind that the food may have been mediocre since it was Providence Restaurant Week. Then I realized…if the purpose of Restaurant Week is to draw in new customers with an affordable menu in hopes that they return again later, serving mediocre food would defeat the purpose altogether. For this reason, restaurants should make it a point to offer their best dishes on their sample menus during this one week special.

Oh well, better luck next time.

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