03 February 2007

Ladies night at Il Vesco Vino, St. Paul, MN

Here’s another guest review from my friend, Patty Miller (see above post).

My golf foursome, aptly named Great Golf Delicious Dinner, continues the delicious dinner tradition at the holidays with a get-together to talk golf and start dreaming of our summer outings. Lani, Linda, Bonnie and I met at Il Vesco Vino this year. It’s the new restaurant at 579 Selby, in the beautiful double brick mansion that once housed The Vintage.

Despite its Victorian exterior, the interior is spared any frou-frou. The warm terra cotta-and-cream color scheme, sleek white dishes and contemporary glassware are quietly sophisticated. But the fireplaces and low lighting keep it cozy.

The wine list is exclusively Italian and features wine by the quartino (250ml), mezzo (500ml) or the bottle. We all ordered quartinos, which gave us each two+ generous glasses of wine, making the price seem very reasonable. Since we weren’t really familiar with the Italian offerings, our waiter was very helpful in selecting something that we all enjoyed.

For starters, Lani and Linda had the special soup of the day, a thick, fragrant lentil, which Linda said was close to the best lentil soup she’d ever had. Both took home about half of the portion, which was sizable for a starter and enough for the next day’s lunch.

I had the pear salad, which featured pear slices poached in red wine, grilled pineapple and arugula piled on a wine-and-butter seared slice of stirato bread and topped with crumbled gorgonzola. The bread took what could have been a rather typical salad and gave it texture and structure. It was tasty and a nice complement to my spicy/creamy entrée.

For an entree, Bonnie opted for the pasta tossed with prosciutto, peas and pecorino in a cream sauce and declared it excellent. Linda’s seafood-and-pasta dish was probably the prettiest, served in a boat-like bowl and studded with dark-brown mussel shells. She said it was a little garlicky for her taste, but said the flavor was still good. Lani had the seared ahi tuna on a “salad” of warm beets and tomatoes seasoned with basil. She said the tuna was excellent, but the beets could have cooked a little longer. I chose the spicy fennel sausage and zucchini tossed with pasta in a cream sauce. The flavor was luscious, rich and pleasantly spicy. There was decidedly more sausage than zucchini, which was fine with me, although the zucchini added nice color.

We wrapped up the meal with coffee and I had the biscotti and vin santo, which was reminiscent of my last trip to Tuscany. The wine was just sweet enough and the biscotti, which you dip in the wine, were crisp and buttery.

Throughout the meal, the service was helpful, pleasant and unobstrusive. Il Vesco Vino lived up to our “delicious dinner” standards and all of us said we’d go back.

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