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October 2010

The Review:
Pane e Vino
Written By: 
Patricia Agnew
Photography By: 
Christopher Shane


At Pane e Vino you’re always at home with passionate new owner Alfredo Temelini, who greets guests as if they are members of his extended family. This Warren Street enoteca is a mainstay on the local restaurant scene, having enchanted international guests and locals alike with its stalwart menu, European panache, and lusty Italian spirit. While this year brought a change in ownership, a wealth of new dishes, and a few noteworthy upgrades in décor, the dining room maintains its camaraderie and comfort; the menu, its robust heritage; and the outdoor terrace, the charming flavor of the neighborhood cafés that can be found tucked into quiet villages and metropolitan corners throughout Italy.

The wine list is ample with delicious varieties from the native country. A favorite Montepulciano d’Abruzzo often begins the experience for diners as they consider the menu, which positively sizzles with flavor. Thanks to the well-crafted menu, choosing isn’t easy and planning and pacing are preeminent challenges for diners, transforming many a simple meal into an extended culinary journey.

A recent evening with friends began with antipasti and an order of funghi fritti, slightly salty, deep-fried shiitakes with whisper-thin slices of truffled pecorino that disappeared in record speed. Melanzana del gosto included slender sheets of grilled eggplant stuffed with pristine buffalo mozzarella, baked in a vine-fresh tomato sauce, and seasoned with oregano—a pleasant alternative to the heavier version. Meat lovers in the crowd swooned over the charcuterie platter selection of smoked and wild boar prosciutto, soppressata, duck salame, sausage, and of course, exquisite prosciutto di Parma.

The zuppe e insalate course demands an appetite-warming bowl of traditional Tuscan bean soup that is perfect with bruschetta alla Siciliana, the black olives and tomatoes lending classic Mediterranean soul. The beautiful insalata caprina is a meal in itself, surprisingly filling with peppery baby arugula, goat cheese, black fig molasses, and fat toasted almonds in balsamic vinaigrette.

The pasta course presents a considerable dilemma, however, as it’s almost impossible to choose among favorites such as simple spaghetti alla checca with red pepper, basil, and buffalo mozzarella or pasta with slow-cooked Bolognese sauce. Delicate spinach ricotta ravioli, so tender that it is almost transparent, is sublime in light asparagus and prosciutto cream sauce. Gnocchi alla zola potato dumplings folded with fresh arugula are spiritual when anointed with creamy gorgonzola sauce. And finally, the main course: magnificent maiale reale, a succulent, all-natural, grilled pork chop finished with millefiori honey, spices, and crushed almonds and served with cannellini beans in fried sage and tomato sauce. It is a heart-warmer of the very best kind, particularly when there’s a chill in the air. Despite having reached our limit, we tried the highly recommended house-made cheesecake and were rewarded with its unexpectedly smooth, fluffy texture.

Service was impeccable: glasses were filled unobtrusively, needs were met before we could ask, and our expectations were exceeded with engaging charm and personality. Omnipresent Temelini was the perfect stage master, his laughter resonating as he made his way from table to table throughout the evening.

If we couldn’t be in Italy, this experience was surely the next best thing. Greeting guests with fresh glimmer and the same generous spirit and earthy Italian home food offered up for years, Pane e Vino is a splendid table indeed—a local treasure and tribute to la dolce vita. If at all possible, sit outside to enjoy a limoncello or grappa to the sounds of the pleasantly distant King Street rumble.

17 Warren St., (843) 853-5955,
www.panevinocharleston.com
Monday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
& 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Average entrée: $20




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Photographs: (3) by Paul Cheney & Jason Kaumeyer

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