Triangle Restaurant Week: Il Palio

Our final stop for Triangle Restaurant Week was Il Palio, located in The Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill. We have been wanting to try this place out more or less since we moved to NC and we figured now would be the perfect opportunity.

I was surprised at how small the restaurant is as it’s tucked away to the side of the hotel lobby. The decor was charming with white table cloths and signature plates. Eric was a little disappointed that they didn’t have optional black napkins as the white ones tend to leave fuzzies on black slacks. As we decided on our wine, a waiter delivered a tasty tomato bisque in a tall shot glass for us to sample. We made our choices from the Restaurant Week menu and then decided on a medium-bodied Fattoria La Rivolta, Sannio Fiano 2006 from southern Italy.

There was no way I was going to pass up the Mussels fri Diavlo appetizer (Prince Edward Island mussels, garlic, tomato, white wine and red chili flake), so Eric took the Mozzarella and Tomato Capresi Salad (Sunny Slopes Farm tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette). Our bread and appetizers arrived right after one another with lightning speed but there was no sign of our wine. In fact, we waited almost ten minutes into our appetizer course before our bottle of wine arrived. I’m not sure who was at fault, but it at the end of the day the manager needs to notice that our food came out too fast. The mussels were tasty and Eric even enjoyed the tomato broth with some of our bread basket. Eric’s salad had good flavor but caprese is not really his thing.

The entree choice was a little more difficult as the menu turned out to be different from the one provided in advance online and, unfortunately, my two favorite choices, the Lasagna Bolognese and the Ashley Farms Chicken Marsala, were not listed. So, Eric ordered the flat iron steak (steak three times in one week!) and I had the veal marsala. As we waited between appetizer and entree Eric mentioned that he hoped his steak would not be sliced like the previous two restaurants, but alas, it was sliced on arrival.  The steak was a little undercooked (once again) and fatty (a first for Eric with flatiron steaks), but the sauce was tasty, and the whipped potatoes were excellent.  The breading on my veal was a little much, but luckily it came right off, so I was able to eat just the meat with the mushroom gravy. The flavor was good, if a little heavy, and my potato wedges were nicely cooked.

We asked to keep our wine bottle in the cooler (not on the table), so sometime during dinner, Eric had his glass removed because it hadn’t yet been refilled. Thankfully we were able to get a new glass relatively quickly—we needed something to deal with the neighboring table of two families with young kids that were seated right next to us. The infant broke a plate within 10 minutes (who gives their 6-month-old a glass plate!?!), the occasional ear-piercing screaming, and the other little girl (maybe 3 yrs old?) wasn’t in her seat for more than five minutes.  Come on, people… this is a nice place where people are trying to have a romantic meal!

The dessert choices were also not what we expected in advance, so we simply got one of each, a vanilla cream brulee and a lime tart with strawberry gelato. My cream brulee was actually a two-inch-high phyllo dough cup filled with vanilla cream and very lightly glazed on top. Eric’s lime tart was a lime cream with strawberries and a strawberry gelato scoop.  Neither of the desserts wowed us.

Overall, the food delivery was a bit rushed, and the flavor of the meal just didn’t seem to be in line with what their normal prices lead you to expect. Of the three restaurants we visited we had the highest expectation for Il Palio but went away disapointed. In our minds Four Square was clearly superior. We certainly didn’t have an awful time, and perhaps we had an off night, so we may return to try one of the mid-week specials in the future.