Monday, September 30, 2013

Maine Monday: Front Row at Vignola Cinque Terre

Every September our favorite Italian restaurant in Portland packs up its chef, staff, and supply of wine and heads north for the day. Grand View Farm in Greene, Maine has been supplying restaurant Vignola Cinque Terre with fresh produce for years, long before "farm to table" was the buzziest of foodie words.

Their stunning pastoral setting annually hosts Vignola's harvest dinner, a much anticipated and always sold out event. We book the babysitter months in advance, as it's an all day affair of touring the farm, enjoying cocktails in the gardens, and sitting down to an amazing multi course meal with seemingly unlimited wine pairings. It's a good thing Vignola offers shuttle bus service from their Dana Street location, although we drive up on our own and one of us draws the short straw to be the designated driver. 

Vignola is one of the little C&Gs favorite restaurants, so they're always bummed to be left out of the annual festivities. Whenever they're told to put on a collared shirt and pick a fancy restaurant in town, Vignola is their number one choice. Chef Lee Skawinski regularly takes his staff to Italy, where they tour farms and suppliers, and they bring back all that knowledge and apply it to the restaurant. Both Big C&G and Little C&G always remark how everything they order at Vignola is just as good (sometimes better) than what they had in Italy. High praise from my kiddos.

Italian food is always kid-friendly, but add in a table overlooking the kitchen and you've got bonus built in entertainment for the evening. Recently Vignola added a long table in front of their busy kitchen which can fit up to seven people, and we were lucky to find it available on a recent Sunday evening. 

Vignola has an extensive list of wines by the glass, most of which are from vineyards the staff has visited. If you've drawn the short straw for the evening, they offer 3oz tasting size glasses so you'll have something to toast with when your youngsters order up one of their Italian sodas. After ordering charcuterie (the little salamis were Little C&Gs favorite thing ever), pizza, and pastas, we all sat back and enjoyed the hustle, bustle, and flames directly in front of us. A lovely Italian evening, without the scramble for passports and Alitalia tickets. 

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