There is a day each month set aside for a special culinary experience. The Sunday Supper Series at Italian restaurant La Pentola takes place the last Sunday of the month, a familia style meal with a new menu each time. Our visit was in February when the menu featured Pasta and Vino. The six course meal was available with or without wine pairings. The evening was like a virtual tour of Italy as each course was from a different region of the country. I was a tourist in Italy a few months ago and had many excellent meals there. I am determined to return some day but until that happens meals in Italian restaurants will have to satisfy my yearnings.
We arrived promptly at 6pm. A large curved bar is the focal point of the warmly lit main room. We were shown to a side room with seating for twenty two people at three tables. Two windows facing Davie Street let in the dwindling daylight. A large window to another side room in the restaurant was curtained off, creating a comfortable feeling of privacy and separation from the larger restaurant. As we settled in we were brought fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to tide us over until the first course. You might say that traditionally Italians don’t eat bread before a meal but as North Americans we are able to enjoy this without any qualms and it is so, so good.
The first course, from the Piedmont region, was Pea and Ricotta Agnolotti with Side Stripe Shrimp, Lemon Butter Sauce and Bottarga. Piedmont is a mountainous area in the north of Italy with Turin the largest city of interest. The fresh shrimp was excellent, the agnolotti equally good. The lemon butter sauce light, harmonious. A Marchesi di Gresy Sauvignon Blanc was the wine paired to this dish, a fine match. The Piedmont region scores high marks all around for this course.
On the central Adriatic coast of Italy is the Marche region which provided inspiration for the next course on the menu: Lobster Tortellini in Lobster Brodo. The lobster tortellini’s subtle flavour was nicely enhanced by the slightly spicy lobster brodo. The summery white wine with this course was the Andrea Felici Verdicchio. The Verdicchio grape is one of the best for white wines in Italy. I found this wine easy to drink and a welcome respite from the slight spicy heat of the brodo. (I have a low threshold for spicy foods so you might have found the brodo very mild.)
From the Adriatic coast to Sicily in the Mediterranean for the third dish of the evening: Spaghetti, Sardines, Currents, Pine Nuts, and Saffron. This dish had layers of texture and tastes. I liked the currents quite a bit. As sardines are slightly oily a full bodied wine was called for. The lovely Mazzei Zisola Nero d’Avola fit the bill fabulously. This rich dark red wine was my favourite of the evening. As good as the spaghetti dish was this wine pairing made it better.
The fourth dish to be brought to the table, inspired by the city of Florence, was Pappardelle, Wild Boar Prosciutto and Rabbit Ragu. A translation of the word pappardelle is “to gobble up” and that is exactly what I did with this delicious offering. The boar prosciutto and rabbit ragu were amazing. Jenn said “I don’t know where the rabbit ends and the boar begins. So delicious together!” The wide pappardelle noodle was a perfect choice with this ragu, bringing so much flavour to the mouth with each bite. If I had the talent to make this dish at home it would appear regularly on my dining table. La Pentola makes their pasta in house so you can count on it to be fresh and excellent. A dish this good needs an equally good wine. The Tenuta Guado al Tasso il Bruciato, a blended red wine, did not disappoint. It is a rich, full flavoured vibrant wine that paired very nicely with the dish from Florence.
The Veneto region is towards the north of Italy, on the Adriatic sea. Venice and Verona are two of the tourist friendly cities of Veneto. This region is represented on the menu by Potato Gnocchi, Braised Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino. The oxtail ragu was the star of this dish. Lots of flavour, accented nicely by the Pecorino. The wine pairing was Werner Walch Saint Magdalener Schiava, a nice red similar to a Pinot Noir with hints of cherry. I’d not tasted Pecorino before this evening and I am happy to say I very much like this cheese made from ewe’s milk.
Dolce is the logical conclusion to a great Italian meal. Four different sweets appeared before me along with a sweet dessert wine. I tried the Lemon Curd Stuffed Meringue first and loved it. The Apricot Biscotti was warm and yummy. A pleasing Raspberry and Rose Water Macaron was next, and my final taste experience was a Sour Cherry Gorgonzola Cheesecake. I was initially surprised at the bold gorgonzola taste but quickly grew to like it. I regret not noting the name of the dessert wine. I can say it was a very suitable choice, as were all the wine pairings this evening.
The six courses of this Sunday Supper Series were served over a comfortable three hours. Our servers were well informed about the food and wine choices and were happy to share that information. The theme of the supper series is different each month. Prepare yourself for a variety of interesting courses that will leave you satisfied and full, with or without wine pairings. La Pentola sources vegetables and meats locally and imports olive oils and prosciutto from Italy.
La Pentola is located in the Opus Hotel, 350 Davie Street near Hamilton. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t drink and drive, plan ahead. Bus, taxi and skytrain are all nearby.