Portland, Maine is considered one of America’s Foodiest Small Towns, so it is not surprising that my husband and I enjoy traveling to Portland (less than an hour from the lake) for lunch. Yesterday we had burgers on the grill and were thinking of something a little more upscale. We have wanted to try Vignola, named after a small town near Parma, Italy. It is known for its locally sourced farm to table fresh food that you might find in any small town in the Emilia-Romagna section of Italy .This section of Italy is famous for its cheese, ham, and balsamic vinegar. Vignola is only open for lunch Thursday to Saturday from 11:30 so we made a 12:30 reservation and headed south.
The restaurant looks much like many of the buildings you see while traveling in Italy. Located on a cobblestone street, it is a lovely building covered in vines with its menu presented to you on a stand outside the door. I have always loved the fact that in Europe menus are placed outside the restaurant…you see what they are offering and if the prices fit your budget before walking the through the door.
The inside has the feel of a an upscale but casual osteria that you might find in Milan. It has high ceilings with wine bottle chandeliers, brick walls, worn wood floors, large windows, and a glass enclosed wine room.
We were escorted to a table by one of the windows and our server explained the menu. We had a choice of individual items, a pizza and salad combo for $9.95 or the prix fixe menu of three items for $20.00. We each made different selections off the prix fixe menu as a way to get a good feel of the kitchen. We ordered Basil Orange Mojitos topped with Prosecco, one of the many interesting cocktails off the special drinks menu.
I started with the Formaggio trio…a selection of cheddar, manchego, and morbier cheese accompanied by spiced walnuts and apricot cherry preserves. My husband started with the mussels in a wonderful broth that he soaked up with focaccia. Each appetizer was excellent.
My main course was trout sautéed with herbs. It had a lovely crispy skin and was served on top of a ragu of white beans with melted leeks and the plate was dotted with a mustard vinaigrette. I would have enjoyed a little more of the vinaigrette, as it added a lovely bright note to the beans.
My husband’s main course was lamb and pork meatballs with a tomato mushroom ragu served over a crispy polenta which is popular in the Emilia-Romagna area. We both enjoyed our selections. They were accompanied by two different wines selected from a great list of wines by the glass.
I have no photos of our desserts. They were so yummy looking that we got carried away and ate them before realizing that we had not taken any pictures. I had fresh strawberries drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar accompanied by a dish of thick vanilla whipped crème (the best I have tasted). My husband had a caramelized pineapple tart topped with gelato. Both were delicious.
This will be a restaurant that we will be coming back to soon. If you have a suggestion for our next lunch in Maine, I would love to hear from you.