The goods: There’s a flashy newcomer in the Design District proffering glasses of Chianti and plates of homemade pasta kissed with olive oil – Vino & Olio. The high-end restaurant is helmed by chef Andrea Menichetti, whose parents each have two Michelin stars (dad is a sommelier and vineyard owner, mom is a chef & founder of famed Italian restaurant Da Caino). The eatery blends seasonal ingredients from local farms with staples (olive oil, cheese and spices) from the chef’s family farm in Italy.
Ambience: Given the restaurant’s rustic leanings, the interior is more space-age Zen than warm woodsy farmhouse. Multi-colored blue, green and orange light panels adorn the matte black wall in the rear of the dining room, while the front of the restaurant is dominated by a blond wood bar and high top tables overlooking the tree-lined courtyard of neighboring Mai Tardi restaurant. There’s a spectacular outdoor terrace that will be packed during the Basel rush and a glass-enclosed chef’s table located inside the large bustling kitchen.
The grub: Traditional Tuscan cuisine. There are a few wildcards on the menu – eel pate with celery puree, eggplant flan – but most of the food is straightforward Italian. Portions are delicate and prices are high: starters average $20, pastas are in the $20’s and no main is less than $30. Wines, however are reasonably priced with several glasses available for $6-$8.
Dinner starts with homemade buns flecked with rosemary. A butternut squash soup topped with creamy ricotta proves comfort on a cool night. The tomato tasting “flight” presents the fruit four ways – as a gel, stuffed with cream, in a tuna-flecked panzanella salad and as a petite disc of pizza. Most of the pastas are homemade, including the chef’s signature pear and pecorino-stuffed tortelli accompanied by a beet sauce. The gnudi are a bit heavier, with four dense dumplings made with spinach and ricotta bathed in a butter sage sauce. Mains include a slab of seabass adorned with caramelized onions and tomatoes and roasted suckling pig with pureed green pea or roasted duck with confit onions.
Desserts include homemade gelato in flavors of pistachio and hazelnut and the chef’s signature canolli stuffed with chocolate mousse and Grand Marnier cream.
Verdict: Go for a glass of Italian wine and a few small plates at this pricey Italian newcomer