Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trattoria Lisina--A Small Miracle in Driftwood, Texas

"I bet you didn't think you'd find a place like this in the middle of nowhere."

That was Tony, one of the chefs at Trattoria Lisina, when he caught me eyeing the place with an awestruck look on my face. I'd just finished one of the most elegant meals I'd had in a long time--and this is a year where I've traveled a lot and eaten well--in a tiny little town called Driftwood. Texas. How tiny is Driftwood, you ask? I bet more people work at Trattoria Lisina than live in the actual town.

Best of all, it wasn't Mexican food or barbecue (that's a Central Texas in-joke). Trattoria Lisina offers some of the richest, most opulent Italian food I've ever had, dishes such as Pancia di Maiale (pork belly confit with a sweet sherry and onion sauce), homemade gnocchi with a wild boar ragu, Texas rabbit with raisins and pine nuts, and much more. I went with the monkfish (huge filets spread over a bed of spinach and risotto with a beurre blanc) because earlier in the day I was telling my brother Mat how much I loved monkfish, but it had been years since I'd indulged. Minutes later, he and his girlfriend Hege invited us to the Trattoria, where the special of the day just happened to be monkfish.

The desserts were as extraordinary as you might imagine from a place this beautiful: I had Sfinci, which is a Sicilian drop donut with cinnamon and vanilla cream. Colleen discovered that peanut butter gelato and Texas honey is a match made in heaven. All the while, Hege kept telling the chefs (we were sitting at the counter facing the kitchen, the best seats in the house) that she was moving in. To her, the Trattoria is "heaven."

Needless to say, the servers and management were top-notch, making us feel like family rather than customers. Matt Vegas, the manager, attended to our every need, as did our waiter Scott and John, the executive chef. The prices are just a bit higher than going out to Black's BBQ, but after spending the last few months watching endless episodes of Chopped with Colleen, I wanted some serious cuisine. I told her later that we need to sell some more Italiian hi-fi so we could afford to come to our new favorite Italian Restaurant more frequently.

The very existence of Trattoria Lisina in such a tiny Texas town underlines the charm of Texas Hill Country--you never know what you're going to find around the bend. If you think you know Texas, one dinner here will change your mind. Surrounded by rolling hills, oaks and olive trees--you even have to drive through a vineyard to reach the front door--you might as well be somewhere in Italy.

Trattoria Lisina is located at 13308 FM 150 West, Driftwood, TX 78619. The phone number is 512-894-3111. You can check out their menu here.

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