When you have a special occasion, like a birthday to celebrate, every foodie hopes that their significant other (or friends!) will take them somewhere out of the ordinary, instead creating an evening that they are sure never to forget. I got my wish a few weeks ago for my 22nd birthday, when I was surprised with an evening out to eat at Vignola Cinque Terre, located on Dana Street in Portland. All I was told was wear something nice and be ready for reservations at 6 pm.
Walking into Vignola, I instantly felt very comfortable in the space, while also noting how beautiful the setup is. Vignola is the restaurant that I’ve walked past in the Old Port multiple times, always commenting how I wish I had a reason to go in and try a place that looks so elegant and refined.
After being seated, we ordered drinks…Prosecco from Italy for me, and Allagash White for my boyfriend. Looking over the menu, I wanted to try it all, including the full page of cheeses available. However, I instead decided on the classic: pasta, which I am familiar with in the Italian tradition, since I studied abroad in Florence last year. Eating there, it struck me that food in America, especially pasta, is so different from the way that Italians make it. Most dishes there have 3 or 4 main ingredients, including: cream, butter, olive oil, and pasta, maybe with a Bolognese or Cream sauce on top. Simple is a way of life, and artistically achieved there.
At Vignola, my pasta came out, steaming hot and smelling just as good as it ended up tasting! And like traditional Italian, it was simple: Penne pasta with parmesan cheese, pork belly, and a light cream sauce. Paired with my light and bubbly Prosecco, I was truly in food heaven. Knowing that my favorite food is Italian (yes, I do have a favorite, surprise!) and taking me to a quality Italian restaurant that makes pasta the right way, indicates to me that he must know me very well!
And his dish may have been even better than mine: the Trenette pasta, with Lobster in a Tarragon sauce. The one bite I had was scintillating, and prompted me to have another instantly. A seafood pasta dish that was both fresh and delicious, yet still simple, is a breath of fresh air in a restaurant world that loves to experiment and bring new flavors together. Some people want plain and simple, while others prefer to try new things everywhere they go. I believe that good food, whether simple or complex, is worth the experience. Vignola is good food: pasta that within one bite, you know is fresh and handcrafted, firm but still tender. The ingredients in the dish are complimentary in the best way possible, with soft and flavorful pork belly that has a flavor that almost explodes in your mouth. Never overwhelming, the meal is satisfying without being too much. Truly, this was the best pasta I’ve had since my travels in Italy! A high honor, indeed.
If you’re looking for fresh pasta, with ingredients served straight from the farm (some of the farms used: Olivia’s Garden, Stone Heart Farms, Grand View Farms, among many more) then Vignola is the place to try. I intend to come back for the cheese page, and the Prosecco! Also, come in for their brunch, available Saturdays and Sundays!