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Aventine Glen Ellen

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
October, 2014 Issue

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Aventine Glen Ellen
 
14301 Arnold Dr.
 
Glen Ellen
 
(707) 934-8911
 
www.aventineglenellen.com
 
Italian Osteria
 
Dinner Tues.-Sun.; Brunch Sat.-Sun.
 
Entrées: $13-$46
 
Full bar, nice wine list
 
 
 
With two thriving restaurants in San Francisco and Hollywood, co-owners Rodrigo Nevado, Gian Paolo Veronese and Executive Chef Aldolfo Veronese have opened their third Aventine in the historic Glen Ellen Gristmill in Jack London Village. And yes, it’s a charm. Remodeled with a nod to the building’s past, it has dark wood, open ceilings, a huge wooden chandelier in the main dining room, additional dining in an upstairs loft and a large patio overlooking Sonoma Creek.
 
There’s a full bar and lounge (where you can see the still-working, 40-foot water wheel just outside), an onsite brewery and an extensive wine list (with both local and Italian selections). It’s a modern take on a traditional Italian osteria that offers a seasonal menu featuring local fare ranging from antipasti to salads and soup, wood-fired pizzas (made in an imported Italian pizza oven), pastas, meats and fresh seafood, with nightly specials and live music on Thursdays. We started off with a perfectly made martini and took our time deciding what to order—it wasn’t easy; everything sounded so good.
 
Upon finally ordering, we were served soft, fresh, house made focaccia with butter that had a hint of orange zest (delicious). Our first starter was the signature black truffle organic popcorn with Parmigiano and Italian parsley. We could smell the big bowl, piled high, coming to the table, and its well-balanced flavors didn’t disappoint. An antipasti special of three large, prosciutto-wrapped figs was drizzled with balsamic vinegar and topped with frisée, served with soft cheese on the side, was a great mix of earthy, sweet and salty flavors.
 
From the wine list, we chose 2013 Mora Estate Amarone Rosato (pear, hint of apple and marcona almonds, crisp finish; I can never resist Mora when I see it) and a toasty 2010 Domaine Carneros Brut. Next, the marinated grilled octopus salad had red potatoes, whole grain mustard sauce, frisée and a drizzle of basil oil. The octopus was so tender (it had texture and coloring similar to lobster) and served in three- to four-inch-long pieces—no knife was necessary—it was by far the best I’ve tried.
 
Another can’t-resist item (in my book, anyway), lasagna al forno, had beef, veal, pork, ragu, cinnamon, béchamel, mozzarella and Parmigiano served in a hot, cast iron pan in a pool of sauce, topped with greens and extra shaved Parmigiano on top (upon request). A dip of focaccia in the remaining sauce (after I completely devoured the entire dish) was an extra bonus.
 
But it was the scottadito (grilled Superior Farms lamb chops) that truly stood out, entrée-wise. Wow, it was seriously off the hook, incredibly flavorful and cooked to a perfect medium rare. There were four chops drizzled with balsamic mint reduction (just a hint, the mint didn’t overtake the flavor at all) with sautéed greens, fingerling potato chips and roasted garlic. The dish was literally perfect.
 
For dessert, we had butterscotch panna cotta, which was really smooth and creamy and served in a rocks glass with a thin layer of sea salt on top—I truly wanted to pick it up and drink it, but somehow controlled myself. Coupled with coffee and excellent service, it was an ideal ending to the evening. 

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