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20 May, 2009

Restaurant Review–Il Palio Ristorante, Chapel Hill

Posted in : Dining in Chapel Hill - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez

Il Palio Ristorante
at the Sienna Hotel
1505 East Franklin Street
Chapel Hill
http://www.sienahotel.com/ilpalio.cfm

Lunch:  $10-14
Dinner:  $18-31, Tasting Menu Available

I finally dined at Il Palio, the Italian restaurant in the Sienna Hotel, after wanting to try it for a long time.  A friend and I decided to give it a go for lunch as part of Triangle Restaurant Week, as we had the option of a three course meal for $15 each.  My hopes were high and for the most part, Il Palio met them.

The restaurant is on the right as you enter the hotel.  The hostess asked for my name and phone number as we walked up to the stand and seemed miffed when I insisted that I didn’t want to leave either.  Apparently, they assume all diners want to sign up for their mailing list.  I guess anonymous dining is not normal for Il Palio patrons?  We were told that there was only outdoor seating, so I assume the inside was completely reserved for a party as there were few patrons about.  The patio was perfect for a nice day, anyhow.  The fountain near the street masked the sounds of the traffic and there were plenty of shaded and sunny tables.  Wait service was very attentive and I thought the red gerbera daisy centerpieces were a vibrant addition to the white-clothed tables.

We both ordered the peach iced tea, which came with a plentiful helping of white peach puree and a dose of black tea and simple syrup.  The puree was definitely the star of the drink, making it almost a smoothie, and I loved it.  Bread was served with a chickpea pesto that the olive oil shined in, though otherwise could have used a bit of a flavor kick with perhaps some pepper flakes.

My first course was a mozzarella and tomato caprese salad.  The olive oil, again, was exceptional and complimented with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  My companion liked her caesar salad but was expecting something a bit more original than the standard dish.

I had the lemon pepper taglione with shrimp and was, as in my last review, amazed with how good fresh pasta can be.  I admit, I thought the sauce would be lemon pepper and not the noodles, so those flavors were subtler than I expected and I was a bit overwhelmed with the rich butter sauce.  But with the tasty noodles and perfectly cooked shrimp, I was content.  My companion’s dish, a margherita pizza, was adequate but not extraordinary.

For dessert, I inhaled the strawberry crisp with pistachio and mint ice cream, but when don’t I inhale dessert?  The pastry was not too heavy or light and the ice cream was extra creamy with both the pistachio and mint as very delicate flavors.  My friend’s panna cotta looked delicious as well but could not top her favorite dessert, the crème brulee cheesecake at Firebirds.  Both desserts were served with a welcome chunk of chocolate.

Overall, I savored my meal though my companion was not quite as impressed.  The confusion with the hostess was a bit off-putting but I’ll just assume we didn’t communicate well.  I must come back for $5 martini night on a Thursday!

3 stars

3 stars

Check out another review of Il Palio during Triangle Restaurant Week at Eric and Leandra’s site, another Durham-based food (and travel and wine) blogging site!

Reviewed 5.14.09.

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