Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Pane & Vino - Italian Trattoria

I'd planned to make pasta for dinner the last 2 nights running, however, in classic post-christmas recovery mode, we've managed to fail to buy eggs on both days.  So we just figured we'd pop out for whatever we could find, with a couple of options high on our list of intentions - bearing in mind that Auckland has both emptied out and seeminly shut down for the christmas period.  Sure enough, the first 3 restaurants we had in mind were all shut.  And then we fortuitously did a u-turn near Pane & Vino.  Simon had this traditional little Italian trattoria on his 'must try' list, so try we did.

Pane & Vino (warning - you'll need to mute your volume or pause the track if you don't like streaming wav while browsing!!!)
20 Williamson Ave

Firstly, let me just say that Tito is one of those amazing individuals who defines the term 'larger than life'.  He is a force of a nature, a bundle of energy, a caricature of Italian-ness, and while I'm fairly confident that almost every time he spoke to us it was in Italian, his accent is so very present, that even his english was fairly Italian!  I love to see any business owner with his level of passion and utter love for what he does!  He is never short of a heartfelt smile, and regularly sings along with whatever modern or classic Italian track is being played, while he easily moves from waiting, to cooking, to serving, to barista, to convivial host!  I could go on all night, but I really ought to get to the food!

We decided to share the special starter of the evening - a classic bruschetta with garlic, buffalo mozzarella, tomato & fresh basil. This was absolutely delicious.  Loads of garlic, but beautifully balanced, the mozarrella was lovely, and the tomato full of flavour.  The bread itself was a smidgen burnt on the edges, but every mouthful was so good, I almost forgot about that.

Next, Simon had the special ravioli of the evening - a carrot & parmesan ravioli with a tomato & beef ragu and parmigiano reggiano - this was rich, hearty and packed with flavour.  Oh - I should also mention that we ordered a 1/2 litre carafe of their house-red-wine - a montepulciano.  This was served classic trattoria style from a jug, in standard table glasses. I did mention this was traditional trattoria style didn't I?!

Ok, back to the main course - I decided to NOT order pasta, seeing as I really do enjoy making my own, and would rather try something that I'm not planning on doing at home.  So I settled on Calamari ripieni alla viestana - whole squid stuffed with bread, egg, parmesan, garlic, and cooked in a tomato & white wine sauce.  The sauce, like Simon's, was rich and bursting with flavour.  The squid was unexpectedly tender, and very good. I would order this again.  It was served with a small salad and a basket of bread - which was perfect for mopping up the last of the sauce. We also had the steamed green veges with garlic, which was a bowl of green beans this evening.

As we were finishing our meal we saw a pizza at another table and it looked absolutely amazing - we may yet be back later this week for pizza!

I overheard another diner ordering tartufo for dessert.  We weren't planning on having dessert, however I can never find tartufo on menus in New Zealand and it was one of my favourite dining memories from our time in Italy, so we did decide to share one of these this evening.  It was really very good, but we are glad we shared a single dessert rather than both ordering something!

For something a bit different to end on, I ordered a Maretto - an espresso shot with lemoncello.  I'm not sure, but it tasted like it was almost a half & half ratio of coffee to lemoncello!  Good thing Simon was driving methinks!  I'd never thought of pairing coffee & lemoncello - it was surprisingly good!

Prices were generally lower than I'm used to paying for Italian in Auckland - we paid about $90 for a shared entree, a pasta main and a non-pasta main plus a side of veges, a shared dessert, alcoholic coffee & 1/2 litre of wine. Their corkage for BYO is also very reasonable at $5.

Yes, we will be back, we will take others with us and we will recommend Pane & Vino to friends.

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