Out in the NC Triangle we’ve got several great examples of hotel restaurants ranging from the Fairview Dining Room at Washington Duke Inn to Herons at the Umstead and Flights over at the Renaissance Hotel. Hotel restaurants may not be at the top of your list as a dining option but you’d be remiss in not considering them. And Il Palio at the Siena Hotel is a new, Italian option in this category. I received an invite for a VIP dinner with their new chef Teddy Diggs and here’s how the evening played out…
Il Palio and the Siena Hotel are conveniently located off of E. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and is certainly one of the more upscale options in this college town. The lobby is full of polished marble and columns presenting an age-old, antiqued European feel. Il Palio sits to the right of the lobby entrance with a bar and lounge area in front, impressive wine display to the side.
We meet with Il Palio’s PR representative, Cherith from Clairemont Communications, who has organized this soiree and gathering of local food media and bloggers. It’s an impressive and chatty group for the evening. I manage to get a quick tour of the dining room before dinner kicks off with General Manager, Anthony Carey who shows off the refreshed dining space. While elegant and upscale, the decor is still comfortable and shows off hints of a post-mod 70’s feel.
We’re seated at two long tables and the dinner will be coursed with a variety of items off the Il Palio dinner menu. We start off with some beautiful large crostini slathered in a variety of pate, jam and mousse, quite good but I’ll confess that I’m not a huge fan of pates!
Course two is a variety of antipasti (appetizers) which range from a roasted chestnut soup to tuna carpaccio and squid in red sauce. A warm basket of olive-oil infused focaccia is actually MY favorite appetizer, sometimes it’s the simple things in life!
Next up is an array of pastas and entrees. The hand-cut taglierini pasta with black truffle-porcini butter and walnuts is rich and exquisite. A plate of gnocchi to my left, lamb chops to the right and a lovely grilled seabass in front of me.
Il Palio specializes in wood-grilled fare so everything comes out with a hint of smoke and char from that specialty oven. I loved the seabass but you do have to be careful picking through its small bones. General Manager Anthony is also taking care of our wine needs over the course of the evening making it a lavish meal. Again, I find some of the simpler items on Il Palio’s menu to be some of my favorites, don’t miss their creamy aquarello risotto!
The table finishes up with a variety of desserts and I absolutely adore mine: a simple-looking olive oil cake! Served with olive oil gelato and these wonderful roasted grapes, there’s a lot of simple complexity happening on this plate. Warm and luscious cake paired with the cool gelato and the fruit with a swirl of balsamic makes for a wonderful ending and sweetness to finish the meal.
Over the course of the dinner, Chef Teddy comes out to tell us a bit about his vision for the menu here at Il Palio and he’s a talented chef with a passion for regional Italian fare. Il Palio is certainly doing Italian cuisine that goes far beyond what you’ll find at most Italian restaurants in the Triangle. So if you’re up for a trek to Chapel Hill and Italian treat for the taste-buds, seek out Il Palio at the Siena Hotel. It’s worth the effort if you’re looking for modern European cuisine in lush surroundings. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, bon appetit!