We walked into Terra & Vine on a Friday night and the place was hopping. It’s got a comfortable lounge-like feel with tables that looked like they could be reclaimed wood and long stretches of cognac-colored leather chesterfield couches. Lush hanging ferns line the floor to ceiling windows. The open kitchen at the back wall provides diners with a full view of the staff hard at work and the tantalizing sight of an ever-glowing wood-fired pizza oven. A shelf behind a row of counter seating creates a very country-kitchen vibe displaying a quaint collection of jarred preserves, cookie jars, and kitchen utensils. It all feels really nice.
Our introduction to their delightfully complex take on Italian comfort food was the Burrata & Brussels Sprouts Crostini, a large pad of creamy burrata cheese melted over toast, then topped with flash fried, gently blackened Brussels sprouts. The nuttiness of the sprouts in amplified with pine nuts and radicchio, which mix perfectly with the rich cheese and toast crunch. The final touch is from a drizzle of tangy apple saba that acts like a refined balsamic reduction. We hovered over every last bite of this protectively every time wait staff approached the table.
Also off the piatti (dishes, aka appetizers) menu, the Mushroom Arancini is like a top-shelf version of deep fried macaroni and cheese. It’s mushroom caps stuffed with risotto, black truffles, Parmesan aioli, and some microgreens for color. The overall impression is so garlicky, rich, and satisfying that it was hard to choose which appetizer we liked better. It’s hard to imagine one more filling than this, though.
The Torchio Calabrese was the sole item we sampled off of the Pasta menu, and it was an excellent ambassador. The bowl is filled with al dente conical torchio noodles and covered in an exceptional sauce made from a particularly spicy pork salumi called n’duja. A flavor of grilled shrimp cuts through the spice and provides a wonderful texture counterpoint to the pasta, and is bolstered by broccoli and pecorino cheese. Pair this dish with a glass of Sangiovese wine to elevate every flavor on the plate.
The Braised Short Rib was the entrée of the night. A flame-kissed crisp on the outside conceals incredibly tender, slow cooked beef in a braising jus reduction. Everything about this dish wrapped us up in warm meat-and-potatoes comfort flavors. Speaking of potatoes, the whipped potato side are creamy and buttery without the short rib sauce, and even more addictive with it. A bundle of roasted carrots bring a little sweetness to the dish.
Every step of the way, our waiter Rob’s description of dishes was more than informative, he made everything sound mouthwatering. He also paired each dish with the perfect accent flavor be it cocktail, wine, or port, saying things like, “The Ten Year is a tawny port trying to be a late port, and it’s like drinking velvet.” How could we not love that?
Speaking of the port, it was an excellent bedfellow to the Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake, a dense, rich dessert that revels in dark chocolate tones. It picks up a little brightness via fresh raspberries and a pool of raspberry sauce underneath it, but especially when balanced against the silky tones of an after-dinner port, it’s everything you want at the end of a meal.
Also, you can walk through the bar right into the lobby of the Century 12 movie theater, making this the perfect destination for dinner and a movie.
Terra & Vine is located at 1701 Maple Avenue in the Church Street Plaza in Evanston, 847-563-4333, terraandvine.com