La Vecchia – Reno, Nevada

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René Best guitarist
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La Vecchia is a lovely Italian restaurant in Reno, Nevada that is owned by chef Alberto Gazzola.  Let me tell you.  This guy knows what he is doing!    The restaurant is  nestled into the hills above Reno where the view enables one to see the lights twinkling down below during dinner.  The place has been completely overhauled from its former incarnation, and transformed into a posh romantic atmosphere with a much-needed touch of class and refinement.

antonio

Since we were in the Reno/Tahoe area to celebrate our anniversary, we thought we’d try something special.  When we asked our hotel concierge to recommend something   romantic and  good, he didn’t miss a beat in telling us that La Vecchia was the best Italian restaurant in Reno.  After two other people told us the same thing, we were sold!  After our experience there, we believed them all.

 First, apologies.  As you can see from my rather bad photos, we were in a low light atmosphere, which was great for a romantic ambience, but not so great for iPhone photography.  Because my phone didn’t do justice to the place, I nabbed a few of these photos from La Vecchia’s website to add with my own.                                      René Best guitarist

La Vecchia  is  lovely inside.  It is well-appointed in a sort of hip decor-meets-modest traditional… with a few mid-century modern touches.   I especially  enjoyed  the cylindrical light fixtures.  I also liked their tasteful  choices in art.  In particular, there were some framed cloth pieces that I suspect were Marimekkos.  They were very nice,  and tastefully placed throughout the restaurant.  Little touches such as these go far to warm up a place and give it a welcoming ambiance.  I had heard that as it dwindled toward its crash and burn state, the former restaurant had a few fish pictures, loud music and TACOS as part of their “Italian”  cuisine. La Vecchia is clearly in a league of its own, and has transformed the place into a fine dining establishment.

 It  was also clearly decorated by a professional.

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When we walked in the front door, we both chuckled about the framed photo of Luciano Pavarotti standing with  Enzo Ferrari.   I was (and still am) a HUGE Pavarotti fan….along with most of the rest of the world, I know.    His renditions of Puccini’s work was absolutely unsurpassed, in my humble opinion.  He brought me to emotional tears many, many times…but in a good way.   During his career, I probably saw Pavarotti a dozen times ,  so it was nice to see his smiling face as a welcome to the restaurant.   Paired with Enzo, neither John nor I could think of a more appropriate Italian welcome!    Our granddaughter’s uncle  drives a Ferrari, and named his son Enzo, after Mr. F …..and that is a bit of a joke with us….so we got a private chuckle out of seeing the photo.

 The uber-gracious  hostess showed us to our seats in the main, carpeted dining area.  The place was packed on a Tuesday night, which we heard is typical there,  but a table had just opened up, so thankfully,  we were seated  almost immediately.  We sat by a wide bank of windows in a part of the restaurant that was formerly an outdoor patio.  The current owner had it enclosed to expand the dining room while maintaining half of the open air atmosphere for diners who prefer to dine alfresco.  It added a nice touch.   I had heard that the former restaurant had been rather cramped in that area.  La Vecchia  is nice and spacious with plenty of room between each table.

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There was a little room on the side as well, that had a more casual feel.  The brick walls lent themselves to a more casual feel than that of the main dining area where we ate.

la vecchia room

One thing that my husband and I noticed right away was how happy the staff seemed to be working there.  This, it seems,  is always a sign of a good restaurant.   The staff at La Vecchia is obviously treated well, or they wouldn’t have been so great at their jobs….and they were.   We chatted with two different waiters as well as the hostess.  All reported that business is great, and this is what we witnessed, too.   Our waiter was gregarious and intelligent and very knowledgeable about the food, which we appreciated.  Everyone who helped us that evening was quite courteous and good at what they did; very professional, yet at ease.

We began our La Vecchia adventure with cocktails, namely the house special martini.  The idea of cheese in my martini did not appeal to me much at first, but I was happy that I tried it.  It was crafted with house-infused rosemary vodka and Absolut citron, served up with a fresh sprig of rosemary and double blue cheese stuffed olives.  The rim of the glass was dusted with some tangy, salty parm.  Delicious, much to my surprise!  Differently delightful.  Wish I’d had two!

While we sipped, our waiter brought us a basket brimming with house made, bread that I *think*

Imagewas salty pane casareccio di genzano.  It was light and crispy and tasted so good with the nice, aged balsamic vinegar and wonderful, high quality olive oil.  Could have made a whole meal out of the bread alone!

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Our dinner wine was probably a cheat.  The owner of this restaurant has a very nice collection of boutique wines from Italy, and we should have tried one or two… but we both love Oregon so much that  when we saw our favorite, silky, creamy Argyle Pinot Noir, we had to go for it…just out of a sense of loyalty, I suppose.   This wine has never let us down with its hints of ripe plum and sweet black cherries.  We could taste mushroom and chocolate spice on the back of our tongues .    This is a wine that has a nice, long finish and is best sipped very slowly….perfect for a wedding anniversary celebration.  And…  It is perfect for a one-glass dinner.  Next time, we’ll try the Italian.

argyle

We began the meal with one of the best  salads either of us had ever eaten.  Our plates were lined with paper-thin, crispy, house-made parmesan wafers, upon which organic baby spinach leaves gently rested, topped with roasted pistachios, poached pears, and the best red wine vinaigrette either of us had ever had.   Albeit very simple, the salad was absolute perfection!

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We both had the Northern Italian wild mushroom ravioli (Ravioli Misto Bosco) as our main course. This is a simple dish, consisting of lightly sauteed shrooms stuffed into rectangular pillows of handmade pasta.  The cream sauce was garnished with fresh chopped shallots. There was absolutely no chicken stock in it….no MSG…nothing nasty at all.    It was divine!    I gave up cooking with cream years ago, but didn’t think it would hurt to splurge this time.  It was, after all, a special occasion.  The flavor was rustic and delicate at once, satisfying, without being cloyingly overfilling.  We dug it, but it left NO room for dessert.

I must apologize for this picture.  The lighting makes this sauce look thick and lumpy and it wasn’t at all.   The effect of my camera in the low light caused it to appear this way.  There was nothing bad about this sauce at all.

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We finished off the meal with cups of rich, Italian roast coffee….and kisses.  We will return to La Vecchia!   Until then….addio miei amici!

Oh, and thank you for a lovely anniversary dinner, Dr. Freed.  I might spend another decade or two or three with you. 🙂

johnsf 

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