Il Cortile Ristorante

During my trip through Paso Robles, my wife, niece and nephew drove up for a day and we had a fantastic meal at this Italian restaurant that's located just off the main square in downtown Paso Robles. I was shocked at the overall quality of the food and am ashamed to say that this was my first time dining here. Opening in 2010 (or possibly late 2009) and run by owners/chef Santos and Carole MacDonal, all of the pasta is made in house and they pull primarily from local sources and purveyors for meat and vegetables.

All of the courses were first-rate and the meal started with an awesome, ethereally light Ricotta Gnocchi (our attempt to quickly satisfy a ravenous 9 and 11-year-old). A simple plate of buttered noodles (course two for a hungry duo of youngsters) was spectacular and showcased the overall attention to detail and quality of the food. Other starters included a solid Beef Carpaccio with truffles (slightly heavy on the béarnaise sauce) and a fresh Caprese Salad, and the two main course entrees of Beef Cheek Tortoloni and Osso Bucco were both superb.

As to the wines, we started with a number of glasses of Alta Colina's 2010 Claudia Cuvée. This 100% Marsanne is gorgeous in its balance of richness and freshness and while a substantial white, it never seems heavy or cumbersome and went perfectly with the starters. It should evolve gracefully, yet I would drink bottles over the coming year or two as I love its purity now. For the main courses, we had a bottle of the 2011 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands. A classic Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot, it shows the cooler nature of the vintage with plenty of spice, red currants and herbs de Provence-styled aromas and flavors as well as medium-bodied richness and depth. It blossomed in the glass and will continue to drink well for 7-8 years, if not longer.

Great restaurant... I'll be a repeat customer.

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