Monday, November 18, 2013

Pane e Vino Food and Wine Bar

Eugene and I had heard so much about Pane e Vino in Stellenbosch, Cape, that we went visiting with high hopes and raging appetites. Both conditions were triumphantly served.

Pane e Vino Food and Wine Bar and the adjacent grappa distillery are owned by the Dalla Cia family.  The family, well known as vintners and grappa distillers, is headed by the patriarch, Giorgio Dalla Cia. This wonderful figure of a burly elderly gentleman with a meticulously cropped grey beard, in shirt sleeves and sporting a panama hat, exemplifies the image I have always had of an Italian wine master wandering through his vineyards in Tuscany.  In actual fact, he was the distinguished and renowned cellar master at Meerlust Winery for 25 years. His son, George, is the 3rd generation Master Grappa Distiller and his daughter-in-law, Elena, is the lady magician who conjures up the magic in the kitchen.  La Famiglia, the strength and the basis of the Dalla Cia enterprises.

Pane e Vino was born of an idea to create a taverna cum vineria (wine bar) to provide a venue where people could enjoy a coffee and a light meal to accompany the grappa and wine tastings.  Elena saw an opportunity to indulge her passion for food and her incredible talent for cooking.  She proposed that the restaurant should be a place where people could enjoy Italian food at its best.  The result: Pane e Vino Food and Wine Bar opened its doors in 2007.

One enters through glass and wooden doors into a rectangular room with a stone fire place which separates
the room into two sections.  When the weather is inclement, there is a roaring log fire in the grate.  One long wall is bare face brick while others are a wonderful yellow/cream colour.   Wooden tables and  taverna chairs with woven raffia seats sit happily on a red quarry tile floor.  At one end of the room, there is a marble-topped counter displaying all sorts of treats.  Behind the counter are shelves with bottles of Pane e Vino products and, most important of all, the chalk-boards that herald the day's offerings.

Eugene and I perused the choices for the day.  There is no standard menu.  Every day, depending onavailability of produce, Elena plans the menu. Under the heading 'Oggi", the Italian word for today, there are four sections: Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and a small sandwich selection.  The dessert menu, Dolci, is the one constant, although not every item is available every day.  The friendly and knowledgeable staff is there to guide one through the menu if you wish.  What struck me was just how well they pronounce the Italian version of the dishes with the passion that is the hallmark of Pane e Vino.

On the day we visited, the Antipasti were: Insalata Caprese, Bresaola con Rucola (cured beef) and Affettati Misti ( a platter of mixed cold meats).  I adore Caprese salad and ordered this to start.  Under Primi, there was a choice between Tortelli di Carne and Tortelli with spinach and ricotta. Tortelli is ravioli for those of us poor mortals that don't speak Italian.  There was Lasagne di Carne and Gnocchi di Ricotta & Spinaci.  All these pastas are homemade. Under Secondi we were offered Melanzane alla Parmigiana, Arrosto di Manzo (Roast Beef), Arrista di Maiale (Pork belly with Roast Potatoes) and Carpaccio di Filetto. Melanzane alla Parmigiana is an all-time favourite of mine and I ordered that as a main course.

Don't worry, Eugene didn't go hungry.  He ordered from the Specials menu of the day.  That day the specials were 'Vitello con Porcini' and 'Pappardelle al Sugo di Ossobuco'.  He ordered the Vitello con Porcini, veal with Porcini mushrooms and decided that he would not have a starter, but would enjoy a dessert.  Pane e Vino makes heavenly Focaccia that is guaranteed to bust any diet. The sandwich selection lists Posciuto, Salami, Mortadella and Smoked Salmon as delicious alternatives to enjoy with the focaccia.

Eugene ordered a Peroni beer and I settled for a soft drink. I needed a clear head as I would be interviewing Elena after the lunch service. The compact wine list contains: 2 Dalla Cia white wines, a chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc; 2 Dalla Cia Red wines and an intriguing choice of Dalla Cia Grappa.  There is a choice from Bosman's Crossings Wineries and an interesting selection of imported Italian Wines from various regions.  Wines are all available by the Taster, Glass, Carafe or Bottle.  And there is another option. You can buy a bottle of wine from their shop shelf and for a very small 'table fee' you can enjoy it with your meal.
A basket of warm, homemade focaccia was brought to the table.  Oh the bliss of it!  Dunk a chunk in the delicious olive oil that Elena has chosen most carefully, or lather it with butter if you prefer. Either way it is delicious!  Try not to consume too much before your food arrives.  Easier said than done.

My Insalata Caprese arrived; a plump and glistening ball of Mozzarella accompanied by beautifully ripe sliced tomatoes and basil leaves and dressed with the most delicate olive oil.  Oh my, oh my!   I was amazed when I later found out that it was dairy Mozzarella and not Buffalo Mozzarella in the salad.   BUT the cheese undergoes a transformation before it is presented for our gustatory pleasure. It is massaged gently and then marinated in a bath of whey, salt and hot water, and only when Elena is satisfied with the texture and feel of the cheese, is it allowed to be served.  The result is sublime, moist and unctuous.  Certainly the best Insalata Caprese I have ever eaten.  And the tomatoes are chosen with infinite care as only the best are acceptable to her discerning continental eye.  Let it never be said that not much goes into the preparation of a Caprese Salad.  Incidentally, her sister is an olive oil taster, so Elena is exposed to a very wide and educated choice of oils.  She only chooses the very best there is.

I had been told that people travel to Pane e Vino for some of Elena's signature dishes. Melanzane Alla Parmigiano is one of these special treats.  Oh, I loved it!  It was light, succulent and superbly flavoursome and I shall return to Pane e Vino and eat it over and over again.  Eugene made short work of his Vitello con Porcini in spite of finishing all the focaccia.  He pronounced it beautifully tender; melt in the mouth stuff and tasting divine.  Veal in all its incarnations is another of Elena's specialities.

For dessert, Eugene ordered the 'Torta al Cioccolato, a dark chocolate cake.  It is a dark, spongy delight and light as air which he enjoyed with excellent coffee.  Obviously, all the desserts are homemade and what a wonderful choice there is. Try the 'Tiramisu' (with caffe'corretto), much sort after by those in the know, or enjoy a 'Torta Caprese' - a wheat free almond cake.  There is a 'Crema a Caramello' (Creme Caramel) that I have promised myself and a wonderful looking 'Tortina all Mele', an Italian apple tartlet. Try the superb chocolate truffles, another promise to myself.  Of course, there are many more choices.. I always gaze with longing as beautiful dessert offerings are brought out of the kitchen. Gazing at these creations as waiters waft past is really part of the fun of eating in an excellent restaurant. 

We were offered grappa at the end of the meal.  I chickened out, but Eugene downed his and loved it.   Grappa tastings are offered in the restaurant.  It is a lovely ceremony and is accompanied by specially chosen and compatible desserts. And of course, wine tastings of the delicious Della Cia wines.  What lovelier way is there to try a new wine than to enjoy it with a beautifully cooked meal?

Eventually the lunch service was over and Elena joined us for coffee.  We spoke about backgrounds and  the genesis of Pane e Vino   Growing up in Florence with parents of Florentian and Roman origin, Elena developed her passions for food and cooking.  After gaining a degree in commerce and economics, she worked as a retail manager for Louis Vuitton, fulfilling another of her passions, fashion. She loved the colours and fabrics and explains how the walls of her restaurant came to be painted that wonderful yellow/cream colour.  She had brought a colour swatch with her from Europe and matched it exactly!

After numerous visits, her parents who had fallen in love with Stellenbosch and South Africa, decided to settle here. Her parents knew the Della Cia family who also lived in Stellenbosch and after one month in the country, Elena met George, her future husband, and the scion of the Della Cia family.  George, who had studied graphic design and marketing, joined his father in 1996 in the grappa distillery.  The Della Cia wines and the Della Cia grappa operations are not under the same roof.  The grapes for the wines come from six different growers in Stellenbosch and the wines are vinified at two differenct and secret locations in Stellenbosch. The distillery next door is solely devoted to the creation of Della Cia Grappa.

Pane e Vino is open at 10am for coffee and Italian style breakfast. This includes coffee, biscotti and cantuccini or croissant with butter, jam and Nutella.  For savoury choices there is focaccio just out of the oven with a choice of toppings. Try Mozzarella or Proscuitto with tomato and basil.  Oh Yum!

This lovely Italian taverna is situated in Distillery Road, Bosman's Crossing, near the Oude Libertas wine farm in Stellenbosch. The telephone directory gives a very complicated address and of course we got lost.  So, save all that hassle and drive to Oude Libertas and turn into Distillery Road and carry on until you see the Taverna on your right hand side.  For those of you that would like a shot at the offical address that is published, it is:

7B Lower Dorp Street (from Distillery Road), Bosman's Crossing Stellenbosch.
You can request GPS coordinates when you phone for a booking.

Tel:          021 883 8312
Cell:        082 552 9077
Fac:        086 519 1006

Pane e Vino is open on Monday to Saturday from 10am - 6 pm.  It is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

The restaurant is available for special events in the evenings by prior arrangement only.

Booking is essential on Saturdays.

Eugene and I love eating out and pay for ourselves whenever and wherever we go. 

Back Chat Eats Out are the dining experiences that Eugene and I have enjoyed and wish to share with you. 

They are written purely for pleasure and Back Chat is in no way affiliated to or remunerated by 
any establishment.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Leslie, we really appreciate your honesty and "independent" love for Pane E Vino.

Leslie Back said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your very kind comment.

Leslie Back

Michael Olivier said...

Yet another lovely piece from you dear LEesley. I would love to do this with you and Eugene one day, you get such pleasure from your eating out. Mxx

Leslie Back said...

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your lovely words. I am sure you would love Pane e Vino and I am sure they would love to cook for you


Catherine Boome said...

Another delicious read, definitely going to take my family there- it sounds like this restaurant was made for us! Your piece conjures up great memories of traveling through the Italian countryside! Thanks Leslie x Catherine

Leslie Back said...

Dear Catherine,

What a lovely idea to take a drive into the country and to enjoy a splendid meal at Pane e Vino. Your whole family will love it,

Buon Appetito,


lionel jedeikin said...

a GREAT italian venue
I love a gentle relaxed Sat lunch

Leslie Back said...

Dear Lionel,

Thank you for your lovely comment. It is thanks to your recommendation that we first visited and found out about the wonderful food at Pane e Vino.

Thank you,