3411 Washtenaw Ave.
Ann Arbor Michigan 48104United States
Paesano's may look traditional, but its innovative chef and her northern Italian cuisine are anything but.
Chef Isabella Nicoletti, who brought her native Northern Italian cuisine to the tables of Paesano Restaurant and Wine Bar more than a decade ago, has become a bit of a celebrity in Ann Arbor, and rightly so. Her innovative fare changes by the season, and her work has become so well-known that she's penned her own cookbook, has her own radio show and appears frequently on TV news shows in Detroit. So what's the hullabaloo about? The eclectic menu. If you're looking for stuff you'll recognize, you're going to be disappointed. About as close as Paesano comes to traditional Italian is lasagna, eggplant Parmesan and homemade spaghetti with tomato sauce. Instead, you'll find items such as red-wine-braised rosticciana, a slow-cooked beef short rib with cipollini and soft polenta, pappardelle with lamb ragu and chianti classic accented with mint and pecorino cheese, and savory sweet potato and cranberry fritters, served with a chestnut and sage sauce. Expect to spend $11 to $21 for a pasta dish and $18 to $34 for a meat entre. As its name denotes, Paesano is also heavily focused on Italian wine. Not only do they sell carryout wine by the bottle--there's a kind of mini store at the restaurant's entrance--they also hold a weekly wine-tasting and can arrange for private wine-tasting/dinner parties. The atmosphere at Paesano's is surprisingly traditional--lace curtains in the windows, warm light cast off golden walls, wood accents and simple white tablecloth-covered tables.