Sunday night, I had the privilege of trying out the food at il Vecchio, a new Italian restaurant opening in early September in Pacific Grove.
I’ve long been enamored of Ariele Alasko’s ambitious project to build the restaurant entirely from reclaimed materials. I’ve been compulsively checking the progress on her blog — brooklyntowest.blogspot.com— every day.
It was amazing to set foot in the space and experience the decor in person. It’s a charming space that immediately felt like it had been here for years, aged to perfection, like a fine wine.
A seven-course tasting provided teasers of the traditional Italian fare diners will find here in a couple of weeks.
One of the highlights was a sampling of the peperoni al forno — red peppers baked with tomatoes and garlic ($5).
The peppers were roasted just shy of becoming caramelized, bringing out a smooth, sweet flavor. This simple dish was packed with sophisticated flavor.
Many dishes will be made with housemade pasta, served al dente in light sauces. We sampled not one, not two, but three tastes of pasta, including pasta al vecchio (penne with tomato, garlic, chilies, mushrooms and olives, $11), ravioli stuffed with scallops and rockcod ($12-14) and gnocchi al gorgonzola e mele (housemade gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce with sliced apples, $11).
The flavors varied from classic to innovative. The ravioli were superb, with a touch of lemon accenting the savory seafood. The apples were a nice addition to the gnocchi, providing a good counterpoint to the gorgonzola in both taste and texture.
As if our stomachs weren’t stuffed yet, they served a taste of the pollo alla cacciatore ($12). This interpretation of chicken cacciatore didn’t include tomatoes — instead, the braised chicken was served with a white wine reduction with sage and rosemary. It was light, but incredibly rich in herb flavors.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the dessert, a sliver of housemade crostata di frutta ($5). Tonight’s featured fresh peaches served over a buttery crust. The peaches were so soft, juicy and tender. The crust was a little thick, but very buttery, a good savory balance to the sweet fruit.
Obviously things were still a little rough around the edges, but Sunday’s dinner here piqued my curiosity and my palate is eager to try more.
Il Vecchio is opening in early September at 110 Central Ave. in Pacific Grove. More details at 324-4282 or www.ilvecchiorestaurant.com.