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Pane e Vino, Sicilian Cooking in Lorton - Chef Antonino di Nicola on Lorton Station Blvd. - Closed


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I am on a mission to taste my way through southern Fairfax County and I've contributed some Springfield reviews over the past year. I have eaten a few times at Pane e Vino in what appears to be the Lorton Town Center, if that's what it's called, but it sure looks like it's trying to be one of those now ubiquitous Town Centers popping up everywhere. DR will have to expand the restaurant guide to include a Lorton listing now.

Pane e Vino is family owned, and therefore checks the box of not being a chain, so that's the first positive sign. It has its own pizza oven, so that's the second positive sign. It has become so successful that it bought the Americanized Chinese place next door and expanded into it, so that's the third positive sign. And I haven't even gotten into the food yet.

As for the food, well, there are many family owned Italian places from Burke to Lorton, all of them pretty good, from Rafagino's in Burke to Vinny's in Lorton, with Victor's next to the Springfield Whole Foods and San Vito down on Rolling and Braddock. All very good and all very reasonably priced, and none of them near the quality of Pane e Vino. This place is now my go-to Italian restaurant south of Fairfax.

Dinner starts with an almost-amouse of a three tastes to go with the fresh bread basket. In one ceramic rectangle was three mini-bowls of olives, olive oil with parmesan, and marinara that tasted fresh made. With the warm breads, this was a hearty start. We accompanied this with a bottle of chardonnay off the daily special list, and since they didn't have the one we ordered, they gave us a more expensive one for the $22 special price.

Tonight we ate off the specials, more or less. Girlfriend had the blackened rockfish, covered with marinara, spinach and olives, which to this day is the best rockfish dish I have ever eaten in my life. Absolutely cooked to perfection. I had the chicken frescia, which is a boneless breast of chicken pounded thin and covered with tomato sauce, spinach and mozzarella, served with a side of pasta and red sauce. To die for, and cooked to a juicy and tender doneness that is difficult to achieve for white meat of chicken.

This place also has a pizza menu that looks tempting, and with the aforementioned pizza oven, it is one of the specialties of the house. I am torn here, because pizza would make a nice noon meal when split with a friend, and across the street is the Fireside grill, which has some tempting grilled sandwiches and is the subject of another review. And when I think of pizza in the southern part of the county, I am drawn to Delia's....oh well, maybe pizza is another topic for another time.

We couldn't have left more satisfied, and a dinner for two (without dessert) with a bottle of wine and tax and tip came to just over $60. I will continue to treat this place as my go-to Italian restaurant this side of Dolce Vita, Da Domenico, Mama's or Bonaroti.

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DR will have to expand the restaurant guide to include a Lorton listing now.

[i'm absolutely going to, because of this fine, descriptive post that makes me want to head out to Pane e Vino and try to produce a similar experience to what you had. It's on my list, not just to include in the dining guide, but as a place to enjoy a full meal in the near future. Thanks for writing your thoughts.]

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Decided to check this place out Wednesday night as it is only 4 miles from my house. Cannot say that I agree with the original review above, but I am biased when it comes to Italian joints.

The 3 bites that some with the Bertucci like (read slightly undercooked) rolls were pretty good. The olive oil with Parmesan is loaded with garlic, which is never a bad thing and the marinara was had a good kick of oregano.

We ordered a main each, a mushroom and onion pizza and the veal parmesan figuring that the basic dishes would give us a good idea of the quality.

The pizza was pretty good, although it was slightly undercooked in the center. The leftovers that were reheated for a snack during the T-Day preparations were still tasty. My only suggestion is that they get the oven hotter. I certainly don't agree that Delia's pizza is better, with its flavorless crust and all. Neither of these places can compare with the pizza joints in the city, but they are certainly more convenient when at home.

The veal was rather tough and chewy and tasted like your typical frozen breaded veal. I don't think it helped that it was sitting under the heat lamp for a few minutes as they waited for the pizza to cook. The dish was saved by the garlicky marinara that covered the meat and the poorly drained pasta side.

The wine and beer list is nothing special, the best beer being the Sam Adams Seasonal.

I will be back, but will probably stick to the pizza and tell them to make it well done. If this is the best Italian place in Southern Fairfax county then I am glad that I have not bothered trying the others.

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I am ready to declare this place the best of the Lorton-Springfield restaurants. Mind you, we're not talking about Old Town or Penn Quarter, where restaurants like this spot every block, but this is Lorton, and it's damn good for Lorton.

Some of you may be inclined to gravitate to the wood-burning oven and enjoy the pizzas. They appear to be good from my perspective of watching them pass by my table on the way to other tables occupied by younger patrons. But if wood-burning is how you define good pizza, then Pane e Vino and the Fireside Grill across the street should satisfy all of your needs.

I tend to gravitate to the specials, and tonight they were hit with gusto. Lady Kibbee and I both enjoyed the appetizer specials -- rare-seared tuna crusted in sesame seeds, and what may have been the best caprese salad I've ever enjoyed. The tuna was as good as it looked, glistening and red and melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. The caprese was fresh mozzarella, absolutely spectacular and fresh-made, creamy and silken and delicious, topped with shredded basil and a sprinkle of olive oil, over perfectly ripe slices of Roma tomatoes. These two appetizers were out of this world and worth repeating on any future visit.

The main courses were also from the specials menu. Lady Kibbee had Chilean Sea Bass, and I enjoyed the beef cutlet that was lightly breaded and pan fried. Both dishes were hits. The sea bass was tender, juicy and full of flavor, accompanied by diced onions, diced tomatoes and capers in a lemon-wine sauce. This was a seafood dish I wouldn't normally expect on (1) a Monday and (2) in Lorton. My beef cutlet arrived sizzling hot with a nice crunch on the outside, and as I worked through it I certainly caught the hints of lemon and rosemary in the recipe. It was quite satisfying, but about half way through I began to notice that the crunch on the crust was holding but the tenderness of the beef was turning a bit tough. Nonetheless, this was a satisfying dish, and with a Clipper Magazine coupon, it was also free with the purchase of the Sea Bass entree.

The outside seating on a night like tonight only added to the experience. I don't know what Lorton Station pretends to be, or whether it aspires to a crappy Town Center end state, but this little dining gem will bring me back on fairly frequent occasions. In fact, the "chef's table" may be on my short list of culinary adventures in the next month or two....

I should mention that Pane e Vino acquired the Asian restaurant next door a year or two ago, and converted it into an Italian deli. It wasn't open today, but from the window I noticed a wall of artisanal pastas and sauces, oils and vinegars, about eight bins of fresh house-made gelato, and a sandwich list on the door that included speck and bresaola sandwiches. The deli is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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Well, inconsistency is the hallmark of dining in most of the northern Virginia 'burbs, and Pane e Vino was suffering from it last night.

Beautiful weather had us sitting outside, but unfortunately we waited a good 10 minutes until a waiter, not ours, noticed us and asked if we had been taken care of. Realizing we had not, he at least saw to it that water was brought to us. Our waitress finally appeared, wearing way too much perfume (yuk!), and we ordered wine to take off the rough edge from being ignored for so long.

Note to all waitstaff -- if you wear a fragrance that interferes with the supposed subtle flavors and aromas that the kitchen wishes your patrons to enjoy, you should be fired on the spot!

On to the food....the fried calamari appetizer was just another fried calamari appetizer, no better or no worse or no different from the thousands of others out there. My order of veal parmigiana was ordinary, and the veal itself was fairly lifeless. This could have been a far better dish. Girlfriend's Fettucini Malafemmina (clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and crab in a white sauce) was surprisingly not served with fettucini but with some broader noodle. Nonetheless, she declared it good enough for her tastes.

This was not a good early evening for the kitchen. Maybe it got better later or the next day, but the kitchen and waitstaff were not in any kind of rhythm on this night.

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I directed my son here for his prom dinner- it must have been acceptable, or. I would have heard about it. I still think that our options at this end of the county are at least as good as anywhere else. I'm kind of astonished when I think about the food I can get in a 5 mile radius, of course, I grew up in the sticks.

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Lunch at Pane e Vino today was darned good. I ordered the calamari for my companion and I to start -- nice flavor and very attractive with tentacles splayed all over the plate, and with two dipping sauces. The calamari was not well drained from its oil, but the taste was still very good.

My main was off the special menu -- Spiedini alla Pollo, two meaty skewers of chicken and chorizo, with onions and peppers, grilled to a char, served over aromatic rice with a side of tzatziki and grilled tomatoes. Heavenly. The chef nailed this dish spot-on.

My partner had the grilled rack of lamb, cooked to a perfect medium rare, with a molded cup of yellow rice and grilled vegetables. He raved.

I don't need to go on about how much I like this place....I do. I'm glad it's near enough to where I live so I can enjoy it as often as possible.

(Allow me to add that the tzatziki was the real deal, so I asked the waitress where the chef was from, and she thought he was from Iran. I caught a glance of one of the placards inside the main door and noticed a Chef "Middle Eastern name" but can't recall it exactly. I will check again when I'm back in the neighborhood.)

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There is a canvas sign draped over the old Pane e Vino sign, "Casa Tequila Bar and Grill 703.507.6333" ... not sure what awaits us here, but there will be some renovation required (the windows are etched with "Pane e Vino" for example). Hoping for something good here -- apparently, there is another Casa Tequila in Purcellville, so this would be the second outpost.

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