One of my co-workers was celebrating his 10th anniversary with our firm, so we all planned to make a trip of it yesterday and drive out to Trattoria Lisina in Driftwood, Texas, for lunch.
Well, Murphy's Law intervened, and I didn't get to go. I was sorry to miss the outing, as I'd heard so much about Trattoria Lisina, so I consoled myself by having lunch at one of the Mandola family's other ventures, Mandola's Italian Market. Here's my Yelp review of Mandola's, written nearly three years ago (back when my reviews weren't so darn WORDY). I've since eaten at Mandola's many, many, many more times, and always had a perfectly pleasurable experience.
Anyway, back to yesterday. I opted for Mandola's pesto pasta and added a chicken breast for some protein. Perfect for a rainy, fall day.
I had a bit of a sweet craving after the meal (must've been that bushel of garlic in the pesto), so I also snagged one of their pignoli cookies. I hadn't had their version before, and was surprised that it was so very chewy and almond-y flavored. Delicious, just not what I was expecting.
Pine nuts were, apparently, the theme of this meal.
Wow, that cookie looks positively MONSTROUS next to that chicken breast. Objects may not be to scale.
I thought my Italian-food-eating ways were over for the week, but then my senior partner took pity on me and another co-worker who didn't get to go yesterday, and offered to take us out to Trattoria Lisina for lunch today. Woo hoo!
It's about a 30 minute drive out there from our office, but a fairly easy one. It's really kind of delightful - you pass the rugged outbuildings of the Salt Lick BBQ, the pastures full of longhorn cattle, the volunteer fire station, the Barsana Dham Hindu temple (wait...what?), and suddenly, you find yourself in Tuscany.
(I wish I'd taken photos of the other things listed above so you non-Austinites could get a feel for how crazy it is that this is sitting out in Driftwood).
The vineyards at Mandola's Estate Winery, with which Trattoria Lisina is connected.
Barrels o' yum at Mandola's Estate Winery.
After a quick tour of the winery, we settled in for some lunch. Since we were right at the winery, we wanted to sample some of their offerings, so tried the Mandola 2004 Sangiovese and the Mandola 2004 Viognier. Both were as good as any Texas wine I've had, particularly the Viognier, which had just a lovely, lightly fruity bouquet and was very clean and agreeable on the palate. I'm not usually a white wine drinker, but I really enjoyed this glass.
They gave us some complimentary rosemary focaccia along with what our waiter called some "olive oil breadsticks," served with some herbed olive oil. I liked the texture of the focaccia, but it was a little greasy, even before it was dipped in the olive oil.
For my entree, I had the Costate di Maiale Milanese ($18), which was described as "a pork chop coated with seasoned breadcrumbs, sauteed in EVOO and garnished with a mixed salad and fresh mozzarella." I was a little confused about what all this meant, and was a bit surprised by what arrived:
Again, it's a bit difficult to see the scale, here. First of all, this thing was gigantic. However, when I cut into it, I was surprised to see that the chop had been pounded as thin as a slice or two of lunchmeat; more than 50% of the dish was the breadcrumbs. It tasted fine, but really wasn't what I wanted (I was trying to eat a little less carby today). I did like the freshness of the salad, but thought the mozzarella was a little on the mushy side.
Of COURSE, we had to also sample a dessert, so we ordered a tiramisu for us all to share. I was very glad I did not have my own serving of this in front of me.
Beautiful, but honestly, I prefer a lighter tiramisu with lots of amaretto, and this was uber-thick and sort of lacked in the amaretto department. Good, but not great.
Perhaps I ordered poorly, but I think the food at Mandola's is actually better than the dishes I tried at Trattoria Lisina today. What sets Trattoria Lisina apart is the lovely setting and the fact that you can walk next door and sample a slew of Texas wines either before or after you dine. It's an event, not just a meal.
On a completely unrelated note, look at the beautiful evening sky Mother Nature treated us to tonight. It gradually turned into deeper and progressively more spectacular shades of pink and orange, but I couldn't find a good spot to shoot toward the west. I chased the sunset until the most glorious of the pink shades had faded below the horizon.
A parade of Italian food and gorgeous Texas skies - what more could a girl want?