While an image of pasta with meat, topped with a marinara sauce, might be what is traditionally thought of in reference to Italian food, that picture only scratches a tiny bit of the surface. Depending on the region of Italy being referenced and its specific cuisine, there is much more than meets the ‘palate.’
Take the area of Tuscany for instance. Widely known in Italy as a region where you will encounter hearty, simple meals of bread, beans and roasted meats, local concoctions first developed out of the ability and means of the farmers who originally lived there. That fact encouraged the creation of tasty, filling meals to feed many hungry people.
New to Town, but well-seasoned on the restaurant scene, husband and wife duo, Janine and Michael Glennon, are looking to present diners with a neo Italian spin on Tuscan influenced fare at VistaVino Modern Grill.
Located on Wilcox, in the Victorian Center to the north of Town, VistaVino has been calling Castle Rock home for less than a year; opening in late spring. Wanting to see what all the local buzz was about regarding some of the newer kids on the block, a course of action was taken to sample some Italian flavor.
Upon entering the dining room, one is immediately put at ease with the soft lighting, warm colors and calm evening atmosphere. After an inviting welcome, we were guided past the large open kitchen to our table for two.
Our waitperson for the evening was a bright young girl, who told us about the mouthwatering pork chop (bone in) special for the evening. Though she made it sound about as spectacular as one can make a pork chop sound, we decided to browse the menu to see if anything else jumped out of the pages.
Big fans of shellfish, the Prince Edward Island Mussels ($9) caught our eyes and were especially intriguing because of the accompanying sauce; a coconut red curry soy ginger marinade. Say that fast 3 times! A light Italian Moretti ($4.75) beer sounded like a nice way to wet my whistle and my dinner date went with the house white, a Pinot Grigio ($6.50).
Our mouths were kept busy with complimentary fresh bread and the tangy white bean hummus; think blended white beans, lemon and chives, minus the tahini. Before we had chosen our main dishes, our mussels were placed before us and our drinks followed suit. The presence of red curry immediately fell on the nose, finishing with a gentle, earthy taste that had us both competing to fish the last one out of the marinade.
Still hungry, I browsed through the large plates and the Cedar River Farms, hormone free, NY Strip was the winner. It came with rosemary truffle potatoes and grilled zucchini for $28.50, which is the most expensive meal on the list. My friend chose to take a lighter route, ordering the Grilled Ceasar Salad ($6.50) and the red and gold sliced beets with spiced pecans, micro greens and blue cheese ($8.95).
After making our selections, it was entertaining that we could observe our meals being prepared by Chef Michael Glennon and his team because of the kitchen’s open design and the quaint size of the room. Janine could also be seen floating around the room, talking to guests and making the dining room activity flow with ease.
The caesar arrived first with the red and gold beets plate. If you’ve never had a grilled salad, we highly recommend it, if it’s done right. The edges of the heavy leaves were slightly charred and the homemade dressing and salty, ground bacon bits flavored the salad nicely. The beets were firm but easy to cut, tasting sweet while they whirled in our mouths with the creamy, sharp blue cheese dressing and greens.
Promptly the big plate of juicy steak arrived, making us salivate in tandem. The generous portion of meat cut readily with my steak knife, tasting like top shelf steak should taste; smooth and full-flavored. The crisp truffle potatoes were utterly delicious and the grilled zucchini remained crunchy, with a zesty taste that offset the heavier items on the plate.
Deciding to halt the feast, we wanted to save room for sweets, so we asked to see the dessert menu. The Signature Mascarpone Cheesecake and Chocolate Flourless Cake were quickly chosen and because we heard the Limoncello recipe had been 15 years in the making, we had to try it.
It was difficult deciding whose dessert was more delicious. The flourless cake was almost like fudge and came with creamy, salted, caramel ice cream and the cheesecake tasted buttery and light – like a hybrid of cheesecake and creme brulee. The blueberry compote and crunchy crumbles were a treat on top. However, it was the Limoncello that stole the show; refreshing with lemon highlights.
Clearly, VistaVino is here to make its mark as one of Castle Rock’s finer dining experiences. Because of the hours, items on the menu and the atmosphere, it is more suited for a date night, a celebration or family gathering with older kids. And if you can get there early, their happy hour has amazing deals for their tasty small plates. With involved owners, a well-thought-out wine list to compliment the high quality of food served and welcoming staff, we suspect their establishment to steadily climb the rungs of the blossoming restaurant scene in Town.
VistaVino Modern Grill
Address: 611 Wilcox St, Castle Rock, CO 80104
Open: Tuesday – Thursday, 5pm to 9pm
Friday – Saturday, 5pm to 10pm
Closed: Sunday and Monday