Friday, October 5, 2007

REVIEW: Pane E Vino- **** / $$$

Pane E Vino has been churning away quietly on Federal Hill for a number of years now. Lacking the fame of the other Italian eateries, such as Camille's or L'Epicureo, it is somewhat ignored. Thankfully, if the chock-full dining area is any indication, patrons are not following the lead of the local hype machine.

Everything about Pane E Vino is excellent. Entering, I was pleased with the decor and ambiance. It wasn't pretentious or fake. It was cozy, romantic, welcoming, and all the other good adjectives you could think of. The tan color scheme makes me feel as though I'm sitting in a villa in the Italian countryside. We were seated immediately. The table dress was very good if not too formal. The floor is slippery, so it's easy to move your chair around. I liked that a lot. Lighting is wonderful. Much nicer than that at the more famous, and inferior, Mediterraneo.

Service was excellent. Our water glasses were always full, and we never went more than five minutes without a check-up. Our appetizers were, across the board, very good. The sweet, lemon flavor in the mozarella en carozza was a nice touch. I must admit, it was a bit too soft and felt soggy in the mouth. Thinner, heartier bread would give it a very satisfying texture. There were too many of us to list all the entrees we got, so I'll mention the standouts. The hanger steak was spicy and tender and went perfectly with the decent mashed potatoes. The cut of meat wasn't the best I've had, but it was more than acceptable.

A cheese and rotini special had some flawless cheese and cream sauce in it. Everyone at the table had a taste and it was a hit with us all. Their bracioli was good, but wasn't very well prepared, being a bit tough. It was the odd man out, since everything else was prepared very well. The menu is traditional Italian overall, and this works well for them. It's large and well-priced.

The wine list was well chosen. Obviously, it skews Italian, so its self-imposed limitation prevents it from being truly world-class. Thank God, there's no Opus One. The list is well-priced. Many affordable wines means that even a person on a budget can add a nice red to their meal. Don't think there's any shortage of pricey wines, though. Some truly wonderful vintages in the $75-$100 range fill the list. A good place to try Italian wines and a very good list overall. It deserves the recognition it receives from Wine Spectator Magazine.

For desserts, the lemon sorbet came in a beautifully frosted glass. The presentation was matched by deep lemon flavor. The chocolate cake was decent, but lacked power to the flavor. Very little chocolate. The texture was also on the dry side. The molten chocolate cake was excellent. Hot and gooey, and presented beautifully, it was the star of the dessert menu. The coffee's a little weak, if you ask me, but was still a fine finish to an excellent meal. While Pane e Vino doesn't break new ground, what it does do, it does wonderfully, and I will be going back again and again. Pane E Vino is currently my favorite Italian food in Providence.

Pane E Vino: ****
Price range for two: $45-$85

Pane E Vino
65 Atwells Avenue
Providence, RI. 02903

Sunday 4:00pm to 9:00pm
Monday through Thursday 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm to 11:00pm

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