Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Recently my best friend and I had dinner at my favourite restaurant, Pane E Vino in Ponsonby.
Pane E Vino was opened by Tito an enthusiastic, charming and friendly Italian who, with his family, arrived in NZ in 2004 bringing with him a passion for Italian food and wine and a desire to share this with New Zealanders and what a privilege this is.
Tito’s welcoming persona is apparent from the moment you call for a reservation, believe me you will need one. We watched as multiple people were turned away during our meal with a few even opting to wait standing out on the street for a table to become free. And you know I can’t blame them.
I booked my Friday night table at 10am that morning and was given the last table available, a narrow hall table at the front of the outdoor eating area with a plastic deck chair either side. Now this might sound a bit of a ramshackle arrangement but after being met by our warm and friendly Italian waiter, who encouraged us to try out the Italian pronunciation of the dishes we were ordering while he listened patiently and smiling the set up was quickly forgotten.
Being a vegetarian I was astounded and overjoyed at the range of vegetarian dishes on offer and after some slow sounding out of the names and pointing to spots on the menu we settled on sharing entrees of the Bruchetta topped with fresh tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil and the Melanzana alla parmigiana - Oven baked eggplant topped with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. They arrived quickly along with a basket of fresh ciabatta and we enjoyed every last bite using the ciabatta to mop up the remaining tomato sauce from the eggplant dish and washing it down with mouthfuls of the Carafe of Montepulciano red wine recommended to us by our waiter.
Just as we sat back in admiration of what we had just devoured questioning whether we had been hasty in ordering a main each. Our mains were delivered to the table. Mine, a Lasagna ai funghi - a delicious vegetarian Mushroom Lasagne and my friends, the Cannelloni di carne con funghi - an impressive Pasta tube dish filled with ragu of beef, porcini mushroom parmesan cheese and truffle pesto topped with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce along with a side salad recommended as a good accompaniment to our choices of main meals. So we sat a little lower in our seats and set about making our way through the amazing flavours and taste of our meals.
Even with the regular checking in by our waiter and Tito himself we didn’t feel rushed to leave to free up tables for new diners. In fact we were encouraged to take our time enjoying the food and atmosphere of the good mood across the diners and even those waiting for a table as new plastic deck chairs were brought out to make them comfortable and even drinks and garlic bread to keep them going.
And then Tito visited to let us know he’d just created 2 desserts, new specials for the evening. He gave us the names of them and then described them to us using English, Italian, his hands and face. There was no way we were leaving without trying those, so we grabbed the next waitress that came in close proximity to us and asked for the new special desserts. She enquired which ones and we were stumped, between us we managed to play back some of what he said but to describe it we would have to replay the words, hand actions and facial expressions. We got there in the end and did not regret for one second having to lie down for the rest of the night from being so full from the good food.
Most of all though we left happy, smiles across our faces and recalling the many good things about Pane E Vino, we will be back, again and again and again.