Photo by Ian Hurdle
The first thing you'll notice inside Pane e Vino Wine Bar & Trattoria is the squadron of flat-screen TVs defensively arranged behind a titanic, open bar that could double as an air traffic control command center. The bartender pours and slices, flanked by a deli case filled with pros-ciutto and Parmesan that he'll trim to sell by the plate. Functional, utilitarian and about as far from wine bar chic as you can get, unless you're in the Dulles airport. Does that sound bad? It shouldn't. Muted game scores served with colds cuts and Prosecco — that's a swell end to my day.
We all have food fetishes, but not every dining experience need cater to them. Leaf-wrapped cheese on pedestals and chef-tasting menus are one kind of wine bar, while white pizza with the VCU game happens at Pane e Vino, opened by Joe Lo Presti. The menu includes the Italian-American staples and oversized subs for which the Lo Presti families are known at places like Piccola Italy, Maldini's and Mary Angela's.
Of the two nouns in the restaurant's name, the wine outshines the Buffa Italian Bakery bread. Day manager Nik Vukaj assembles a just-geeky-enough Italian wine list to suit most tastes without sacrificing any New World backbones, like California Cabernet and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Should you want to pair the Spanish-Italian tapas menu with regional wines, Vukaj can take you there.
At night, the rangy tapas menu stays, and main courses are added. The Cadillac of pot-roast dishes, osso buco, with flavors falling between the sweetness of pork and richness of beef, costs, but its glossy broth, beveled with vegetables and a haystack of fettucine, softens the $38 transaction.
Pane e Vino's fare flies through the Mediterranean, landing in America with wings and cheesesteak. At the time of this review, the menu was being reconsidered in response to customer feedback. Folks want a shorter menu, and on that point, I agree. The best bites were of eggplant, artichoke, tomato and basil. Here's hoping the revised itinerary stays in Italy.
Pane e Vino Wine Bar & Trattoria
2617 W. Broad St., 257-9930, paneevinowinebar.com
Hours: Sunday to Thursday
10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday,10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: Lunch $6 to $19; small plates $6 to $11; entrées $11 to $38. Handicapped accessible .