A Special After Hours Dinner from Santa Ynez’s Italian Gem
As my friends and I exited The Maverick Saloon after an evening of music last month, our thoughts quickly turned to food. Being the latest inductee into the impeccable Tales from the Tavern series (for those of you who have not yet discovered this musical gem another opportunity arises on December 6 with Tom Russell), Tom Rush and his guitar kept us well and truly spiritually nourished. And that was necessary, because in the weeknight frenzy of rounding off commitments and then treking across the mountain to the valley, we arrived at the concert having foregone dinner.
As the brisk night air descended upon us, we were quickly drawn to the warmth emanating from the veranda of Trattoria Grappolo (which eloquently resides next to the rustic Maverick) and decided to try our luck. The restaurant (whose owners Chef Leonardo Curti and Daniele Serra are pictured) had just closed, but one of our party weaved her magic and managed to secure us a seating. Despite being pulled away from the kitchen counter, where he was very comfortably relaxing with his colleagues, Eric (pictured below) — the restaurant manager — enthusiastically showed us to our places and diligently tended to our needs.
We were offered a menu at the chef’s discretion. While this meant he decided what we would be served, we were, however, presented with a wine list. As we sat and talked and pondered what was coming, a bottle of 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Justin Vineyard kept us company. A house green salad featuring an array of baby green leaves accompanied by ripe roma tomatoes, goat cheese, and a delectably reserved dash of balsamic vinaigrette dressing was first to arrive. By the time the salad had been dealt with and the level of the red retreated, the main fare sprung forth.
For our main course, we were presented with lasagna. The cheeses were light and rich and the pasta fell apart at the command of the fork. The sauce was sweet and an ample serving of bread ensured there was more than adequate conveyance for its remnants. And, just when we thought we were done, dessert emerged. Graciously arranged upon an elongated plate (and presented with three spoons) were servings of tiramisu, chocolate flourless cake, and crème brulee. A common problem with sharing an array of deserts is that people can gravitate towards one offering. But, in this instance, we each had our respective favorite. Mine was unquestionably the tiramisu, which offered a lightness and delicacy that ensured it was fully appreciated.
Just like a concert is more than the songs that are performed, a dining experience is more than simply the food. On the spur of the moment, Trattoria Grappolo served up a divine ad-hoc offering. And just as the food was great, so too was the service. We were treated more like house guests than customers — and we didn’t even have to help with the dishes!
The Details: Trattoria Grappolo is located at 3687 Sagunto Street in Old Town Santa Ynez. Call 688-6899 or see www.trattoriagrappolo.com.