Thank the heavens that Charleston has an authentic Italian restaurant. I’m so tired of seeing restaurants with nothing but the typical Chicken Parmesan, lasagna, spaghetti, and ravioli. Sure, that stuff is Americanized Italian, but nothing like what you’d have when visiting the actual country. Keep in mind that, like in every country, each region has different specialties. A few weeks after returning from vacation, I was sitting around looking at menus online. (I consider this a hobby.) I was on a mission for a wine & cheese bar, but ended up finding Wild Olive. I jumped for joy when I saw this on the menu: ARANCINI! Remember this picture from Italy?
These sweet balls of loveliness are fried balls of rice, pork, peas, and mozzarella. This was something I had never heard of before visiting Italy, and was determined to either find at a restaurant at home, or attempt to make in my own kitchen. Further into the menu, I recognized some other treats we had in Italy: marinated olives, sauteed artichoke hearts, bucatini all’amatriciana, and tagliatelle alla bolognese. The menu also has the aforementioned Chicken Parm, lasagna, spaghetti, and ravioli, but all with a more creative twist.
So we trekked out to John’s Island for our 7:00 pm reservation. The restaurant was busy for a Wednesday evening; I definitely suggest making reservations if you go. IF you go? No, WHEN you go. We sat at a little wooden table in a large, open room. The restaurant isn’t loud and bustling, but it doesn’t have a quiet, dark, romantic setting either. Our server, Cheyenne, was friendly and attentive and immediately greeted us with our menus. We ordered a carafe of the house red wine and ended up asking for it to be chilled because it was a little too warm for this blend.
We decided to eat like we did in Italy; We chose one item from each category–antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci–and shared them all. It’s a great way to get a taste of each category but not overwhelming yourself with food. Trust me, even for two people, this is a lot.
For the antipasti, we chose the PIATTO DI ANTIPASTI DI OLIVA $15: “our antipasti plate “for two” consisting of a selection of house cured meats, house pulled mozzarella, crostini and seasonally inspired vegetables.”
The meats were tasty and the mozzarella was very fresh. The “seasonally inspired vegetables” consisted of Brussels sprouts, roasted garlic, onions, mushrooms, and capers. The crostini was topped with chicken pate. We both decided the pate was our favorite!
For the primi, we went with the SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI AND SCALLOPS $11/18: “pan-seared sea scallops served with sweet potato gnocchi, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and ricotta cheese.”
We opted for the small plate instead of the dinner portion because we’d be getting a lot more food later. This was the perfect size just to sample without getting too full before your entree. The gnocchi were small and had a light sweet potato flavor. The addition of sun dried tomatoes and spinach was perfect to intensify the flavor of the dish. The scallops were larged and cooked perfectly with a nice cracked surface.
The secondi was VEAL SALTIMBOCCA $19:”veal scallopine cutlet layered with Prosciutto and sage served over Anson Mills polenta with a white wine butter sauce and lemon.”
I’m not a huge veal fan, but I haven’t had anything saltimbocca style in quite some time, and the sage and polenta caught my eye. Overall, the veal wasn’t the greatest, but it was good. I think it was slightly overcooked, but the prosciutto did make for a nice crispy crust. The sauce was excellent. We both agreed that the veal would have been better paired with asparagus, but the polenta was good too.
And now for the dolci! APPLE TART $6.75: “caramel apples, almond cream, cinnamon crumble, cream cheese gelato.”
Mmm! Anytime I see the word cinnamon, I go for it. The word was bouncing in my head while she described the special: almond cake with macerated berries and vanilla gelato…but I had already made up my mind. It was good! As you can see, the tart was layers of apple with a nice crumble topping. The cream cheese gelato (I swear it was ice cream) was soso good. I liked the “gelato” more than the tart, but of course finished it all.
I highly recommend this restaurant. It was definitely worth the 20ish minute drive from Mt. Pleasant and I can’t wait to go back. Some of the things I’d love to try on my next visit are:
BUCATINI ALL’ AMATRICIANA: “pierced” pasta tossed with house made pancetta, red onion, chile flake, tomato, cheese and parsley
WILD MUSHROOM AND ESCAROLE RISOTTO: creamy Carnorolli rice with sautéed mushrooms, escarole and shaved truffle Pecorino cheese
GRILLED SOUTH CAROLINA QUAIL: with butternut squash farrotto, crispy pancetta and a broken balsamic sugo
TARTUFO: chocolate brownie chunks, bananas and peanut butter swirl ice cream truffle rolled in crushed peanuts