Winemaker's Journal — Visconti's Italian Restaurant

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Visconti's is one of Wenatchee's finest and most reliable restaurants, of that there is little debate. Customers line up to get in to the small, family-style Italian restaurant most nights, as they have for 25 years.

Partners Dan Carr and Candy Mecham have expanded over the years with a much larger Visconti's restaurant in Leavenworth; it's Cured meat shop, a gelato shop and sausage garden, all in Leavenworth; and now Fire and Ice, two restaurants in the Pybus Center, serving wood-fired pizzas and gelato and crepes.

But the original restaurant at 1737 N. Wenatchee Ave. is where Candy and Dan first perfected their recipes and Dan began collecting Italian and Washington wines in the building's tiny cellar.

Visconti's has been a perennial winner since 2001 of Washington Wine Commission's Outstanding Wine List award. Last year, it won the commission's prestigious Restaurant of the Year Award. Carr was also picked as guest chef to lead a culinary team in making a multi-course meal in February for more than 400 wine industry leaders at the Washington Association of Grape Growers convention in Kennewick.

The Wenatchee restaurant was packed on the mid-October Monday night when our Dream Meal team scheduled a visit. Our appetizer could have been a meal in itself with two trays of sliced salami, dried Italian sausage, prosciutto, spicy capicola and an assortment of cheeses, olives and tapenades. All of the meats were made by Visconti's Cured meat and cheese shop. All were delicious.

The arugula beet salad is a menu favorite and was our favorite as well. Fresh peppery arugula topped with red and yellow roasted beets, goat cheese and walnuts tossed with honey-lemon-thyme vinagrette and a decorative balsamic vinegar underglaze. It was our top choice among many great salads at 14 restaurants this year. We loved the restrained choice of very fresh ingredients.

"The combination of perfectly cooked beets, peppery greens, goat cheese, walnuts and balsamic reduction was just impeccable. I could eat this salad for any meal, any time of day," said Annette.

We were already stuffed before our entree of lemon crab linguini arrived. It was unsympathetically delicious, forcing us to eat too much with its perfect balance of light cream and lemon and abundance fresh crab meat.

Dessert was an equally tempting apple bread pudding with restaurant-made fresh vanilla gelato.

Visconti's wine list is really an education worthy of study and trial. The restaurant's many awards aren't given for nothing. The list features the best in Washington wines and servers are well trained to help you pick out an excellent Italian wine to go with your meal. We chose a Jones of Washington Sauvignon Blanc that was outstanding. It's fresh tropical fruit flavors and bright acidity was a perfect match for the salad and lemon linguini.

Visconti's Italian Restaurant, 1737 N. Wenatchee Ave.; 662-5013. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Entree prices range from $13 to $38. The Dream Meal Team has been at it again. For the second year, our group of three experienced foodies took on the enviable task of dining out once or twice a week at some of the region's finest restaurants for reviews and to pick the best appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for the Foothills magazine's annual Dream Meal. The winners - and there were many - are published in the January-February issue of Foothills, now available at many locations. Reviews of all participating restaurants will appear one each week on the Winemaker's Journal website.The Dream Meal review team is made up of Annette Pitts, director of the Cascade Loop Association, former caterer and food blogger; Kent Getzin, Wenatchee School District director of food services and member of the National Farm to School Board of Directors; and Rick Steigmeyer, food and wine blogger and Wenatchee World staff writer. Most of the food photos were taken by Kent and his nifty iPhone 5.All meals were provided by the restaurants, most drinks were purchased. As current or former food service workers, we all want to see local restaurants succeed. Criticisms, if any, are all meant to be constructive.

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