Sometimes a restaurant is memorable for the food. Other times it's for the ambience or the service. Once in a while, you get really lucky and a place hits the mark on all of them. Locanda Wine Bar is that very place.
Located in Downtown Livermore, Locanda blends a modern twist on Italian tradition with a sophisticated flair. Originally opened as a wine bar with lighter fare, due to demand their menu has been expanded to include a well-curated range of pasta, roman-style focaccia crust pizzas, and a variety of Secondi, or main courses.
As we entered the restaurant I could feel the positive energy immediately. Somehow it felt intimate and lively, all at once. I looked around to see why that was, and while drinking in the colorful, Italian-inspired décor and the bustling bar area, then being greeted and seated by Chef and part-owner Tulio himself, my question was clearly answered.
The moment our group was seated we were graced by Tulio's mesmerizing Italian smile, and he was our main host for the entire meal. His team members were equally as charming and gracious (well almost, Tulio sets the bar pretty high). The laughter and chatter around our table as we drank and dined served as evidence that we were in for a memorable evening.
Chef Tulio, presenting our wine options
We listened to our chef's recommendations and started with a few shared appetizers, one of which included their specialty, the Antipasto "Piatto alla Contadina". This delectable plate tempts the palate with imported Buffalo mozzarella (yes, there is a difference), roasted veggies and house-made crostini.
Antipasto alla Contadina
More great recommendations from the expansive wine menu, then corks were popped on local and Italian whites and reds around the table.
Normally a diehard pasta lover, this time I decided to branch out and opt for a lighter main course. (Confession - I had glanced at the dessert menu and knew what delights would be coming.)
My colleague and I shared one of the Chef's features, the Branzino. Branzino is a Mediterranean seabass, which I found light and flaky, punctuated by a lovely lemony sauce. It was amazing to see how beautifully they presented a split dish.
Chef's Feature, Branzino drizzled with a delicate Lemon Sauce
I have to admit though, while I enjoyed every bite of my meal and the self-praise that comes with choosing a healthy, lighter option, once the other dishes were delivered to my companions and I spied the cannelloni and lasagna "della Mamma", some serious Pasta Envy set in. The others were raving about their homemade pasta, from Mamma Carmela's recipes.
No matter, I forgot all about that when my eyes landed on the gorgeous Limoncello cake sitting right in front of me, inviting me to lift my fork and taste its lemony goodness. If a dessert could be described as "light" and "flavor bursting in your mouth" at the same time, this cake is the one. Do yourself a favor and save room for this life-changing dessert.
A light and wonderfully delicate cake, bursting with lemon flavor
In true Italian style, dinner and dessert wouldn't be complete without the traditional Digestivo, to properly digest a wonderful dinner.
I again went with Tulio's recommendation of Amaro, an Italian liqueur made with a grape brandy base and infused with various herbs.
Bittersweet at first then warm and slightly syrupy, Amaro is the perfect finale to a dining experience at Locanda.
I look forward to my return visit. Soon. (Yes, I'm still dreaming about the Cannelloni.)