About the only thing Leonardo da Vinci couldn’t master was cooking. But the restaurant named in his honor in the Siena would make this master proud. It’s upscale and seats 40 with a few booths and mostly tables all properly draped with linens. And the view of the Truckee River is ever present.
Executive Chef Xavier Leveau, classically trained in France with a résumé that includes chef de cuisine at Epcot Center in Orlando and Café X in Elko, has crafted a respectable menu with four steaks ($26-$38) and prime rib ($26-$34), and you can add lobster, king crab, and prawns. An American Kobe-style New York sirloin is also at market price.
There’s also blackened lamb chops ($38), honey glazed ginger duck ($28), fish, chicken and pasta ($24-$38). They offer small plates like chocolate chipotle prawns and lump blue crab cakes, both $14, along with soups and salads ($7-$8). Accompaniments include creamed spinach, Pommes Frites (shoestring potatoes), and Fontina mac and cheese ($6).
I had to try the stuffed calamari ($12) because it sounded unique. Served en spoon—six Chinese soup spoons—warm Asiago cheese in squid floating in a fire-roasted tomato basil sauce. The tender calamari married well with the cheese—an Italian cow’s milk cheese. The flavor is reminiscent of Parmesan and a traditional sauce. It was savory and salty, and the basil made it delicious.
How could I resist a Del Monaco steak ($36)? The cut named after the legendary New York restaurant—though spelled differently—in lower Manhattan during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the restaurant is credited with being the first American restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu à la carte. It is also claimed to be the first to offer a separate wine list.
Sous Chef Kevin Cloutier told me they do all their own butchering. The steak was a triangular-shaped, short loin cut, some suggesting the first cut of the top loin next to the rib end, and it was rubbed with truffle oil, tarragon, roasted garlic, rosemary oil and few other special spices then grilled to medium rare. It was tender, juicy, and filled with layers of flavors from the bite of the garlic and the sweet-savory rosemary to the elegance of the truffle. The service was exceptional, with polished presentation technique, and a knowledgeable, well-spoken staff.
There’s a nice wine list that includes a 1945 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac ($12,000) and in the interest of truth-in-journalism, I went to the cellar and saw it. The by-the-glass, more my price range, was nice ($6-$11). With the appetizer, I had the 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay, revealing elegant ripe tree fruit flavors of baked apple, supported by layered notes of toasty oak, caramel and brown spice. The wine has a moderate mouth feel and sweetness balanced by refined, juicy acidity.
The steak required a red. The ZD 2011 Pinot Noir was a truly delicious wine with excellent depth and complexity. A medium ruby color and aromas of dark cherries, briary strawberry and subtle hints of vanilla and lavender give way to a lush, silky palate with more bright fruit, cedar and toast, and a great acid/tannin balance that should allow for great aging in the years to come.
Dessert was recommended and who am I to argue with the chef? Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting ($7)—I hadn’t seen that in a long while, and I can tell you the calories never looked better. It was moist and melted in my mouth. As I walked out feeling thoroughly content and pleasingly plump, I’m sure a Mona Lisa smile was on my face.