Bread and wine

One of Reno’s premier Italian restaurants, Coco Pazzo, changed its name early last summer because of a copyright infringement issue—it’s now Pane Vino. At the beginning of the year, Judy and Sid Ashton bought the restaurant. Considering all the exquisite dishes former chef Colin Smith created in the kitchen at the corner of Lakeside Drive and Moana Lane, I was interested in finding out if the Ashtons could do the same.

Judging from my dining experience and chef Kevin Ashton’s masterful dishes, it seems Pane Vino is continuing Coco Pazzo’s tradition of great Italian food.

Pane Vino has a low-lit, cozy atmosphere. Red and white checkered tablecloths cover the tables, and an arrangement of leaves and grapes hang low over the center of the dining room. It’s very comfortable.

Our waitress suggested a soft-shell crab dish for an appetizer. Although I would usually select a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc to complement the lemon, butter, cream and orange sauce poured over the crab, my dining partners and I decided on a bottle of Merlot.

Our 1997 bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Valley ($26), was good. It was full and rich and had plenty of cherry and blackberry hints. This wine poured well, but it would have been better if it was a bit older.

Before our appetizer arrived, David chose the porterhouse special ($23.95). I decided on the veal piccata ($18.95), and Michelle went with the grilled eggplant ($10.95).

Our waitress placed the crab in the center of the table. It was delicious. The orange, lemon, and champagne flavors exploded on our palettes one after the other.

Pane Vino’s garlic bread was fabulous. The garlic was applied in the right amount and the parmesan melted to a crisp brown. The house salad was mixed baby greens tossed in tangy Italian dressing. The greens were fresh, and the dressing had a nice punch.

As soon as our salads were cleared by the busboy, our entrées arrived.

The porterhouse, a 20-ounce steak grilled with garlic butter poured on top, was served with fresh vegetables and Tuscan potatoes. David said he liked the steak. I tasted it and agreed. Michelle’s eggplant was also good. The eggplant, topped with roasted peppers and served over spaghetti marinara, was delicious. Mozzarella cheese was melted over the entire dish.

But the gem of the meal was my veal piccata. Provimi veal sautéed in lemon, white wine and capers melted in my mouth. Pane Vino’s sauce was thick and flavorful, the veal tender and succulent.

Dessert choices included raspberry creme brûlée, chocolate mousse with Kahlúa cream and cheesecake. All desserts are $4, except for the ice cream, which is $3. I couldn’t leave without indulging, so we ordered the chocolate mousse.

The savory Kahlúa cream complemented the mousse’s rich flavor, making this possibly the best mousse I’ve ever had—and I’ve tried many. I topped dinner off with a triple espresso.

The service was attentive and knowledgeable, but I did feel a bit rushed. We sat at 8:20 p.m. but by 9:40 p.m., our server pushed us out the door. (Dinners are served from 4:30 p.m. until 9 p.m.) No matter what time a restaurant closes, the diners’ comfort should be the primary concern. Other than that, everything about what Pane Vino created was wonderful.