Why you should know about it: Nemacolin is a major luxury travel destination in western Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, in the Allegheny Mountains. Encompassing more than 2,200 acres in the scenic Laurel Highlands region, Nemacolin offers a wide range of lodgings, food and beverage options, and activities, including a spa, skiing, horseback riding, fly fishing, two golf courses and much more.
The luxurious Lautrec restaurant, displaying six first print lithographs by famed 19th century French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, was the culinary centerpiece of the resort for years, earning a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence in 2011. (The restaurant has claimed that it has the “largest working wine cellar in Pennsylvania.”)
When it reopened: Lautrec had been closed since January 2023, as Nemacolin reimagined its Grand Lodge hotel; during that time, the space was used temporarily for the Rockwell’s Bistro restaurant (named for Willard F. Rockwell, who founded Nemacolin as the Nemacolin Trails Hunting Reserve in 1968; Joseph A. Hardy III purchased Nemacolin in the 1980s, expanding it, and his daughter Maggie Hardy now leads the resort). Lautrec reopened in October in its original location in the Farmington, Pa., resort.
[article-img-container][src=2023-11/restaurant-news-lautrec-reopens-cellar-122823_1600.jpg] [credit= (Nemacolin)] [alt= The wine cellar of Lautrec at Nemacolin][end: article-img-container]
The culinary approach: Executive chef Louis Carletti-Silva continues to offer Lautrec’s six-course tasting menu of creative European dishes with global inspirations, based around seasonal ingredients. “One main change in the Lautrec menu offering over the last year is the focus on course choices for our guests,” Carletti-Silva explained. “Instead of them coming in and receiving six courses of ‘chef choice’ items, the focus is to have a choice of three items for most dining experiences”—currently, four of the courses.
What’s on the wine list: Sommelier Wade Hill oversees the approximately 900-label wine list, tapping an inventory of about 9,000 bottles. France (particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux), the U.S. and Italy continue to be strengths, with other regions also represented. “Changes to the wine list have been minimal,” said Hill. “However, now that we are back to fully operational in the restaurants and in the wine cellar, I [am] rebuilding Nemacolin’s inventory to not just get back to where we were, but to further build our wine list to increase the offerings.”
But that’s not all …
Lautrec was joined at the Grand Lodge this fall by a new restaurant, Fawn & Fable. (With the Chateau hotel now being reimagined and set to reopen its doors in summer 2024, there might just be more news to come.)
The culinary approach: Fawn & Fable focuses on sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine inspired by the surrounding Laurel Highlands and the history of Nemacolin and the Grand Lodge. Much of the menu draws from classic steak-house dining, but chefs Christine Hazel and Kristin Butterworth have introduced creative twists in dishes such as kimchi cauliflower with toasted sesame ranch, the Princess & the Chickpea-Peanut Hummus (with cucumber salad, roasted peanuts and flatbreads) and Snow White’s Apple Oysters with green apple mignonette and chile caviar.
“Our whimsical approach to steak-house cuisine brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the dining scene of the Laurel Highlands,” Hazel told Wine Spectator. Many ingredients are from Fawn & Fable’s garden, and others come from sources in Pennsylvania: cheese from Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy, charcuterie from Stone Arch Farm and bread from Mediterra Bakehouse.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/restaurant-news-fawn-fable-nemacolin-b-122823_1600.jpg] [credit= (Jordan Millington Liquorice)] [alt= A dining room at Nemacolin’s Fawn and Fable, where there are spherical lighting fixtures and cow-printed chairs][end: article-img-container]
What’s on the wine list: Wade Hill also oversees Fawn & Fable’s list of about 900 wines (representing a 7,000-bottle inventory). There are around 30 served by the glass, a dozen half bottles and 70 large-format bottles (primarily Burgundy and Champagne). The program is strong in selections from France, California and Italy, joined by smaller but still impressive selections of Spanish, Greek, South African, Israeli and Lebanese wines. “We want to showcase these dry, heavy red wines, being a steak house, and have some very iconic producers,” said Hill, adding, “If we can provide wines that the guest may not have the opportunity to experience at many other places, then we can create a truly special experience for them.”
Indeed, the list offers serious vertical depth, with older vintages from Bordeaux’s first-growths, the Rhône Valley’s Château de Beaucastel, Piedmont’s La Spineta and Napa Valley’s Bond. About 45 dessert wines include vintages of Quinta do Noval’s famed Vintage Port Nacional and Château d’Yquem Sauternes, as well as a sweet wine from Pennsylvania’s Conneaut Cellars Winery. “We believe that wine itself has a story in every bottle, and Fawn & Fable is all about the storytelling,” said Hill. “We want our guest to go on a journey when they dine with us, and our selections of wine [are] very much a big part of that.”
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/restaurant-news-fawn-fable-nemacolin-122823_1600.jpg] [credit= (Jordan Millington Liquorice)] [alt= John Manion in front of a wood-fired grill][end: article-img-container]
The design: Fawn & Fable brings the farm into the dining room with cow-print chairs. Skylights offer plenty of natural light and, at night, the room is lit by bright, moon-like globes overhead. Wood and leather elements throughout the restaurant enhance the farm-to-table atmosphere.
Who’s behind it: Chef Jesse Schenker earned acclaim at New York City restaurants Recette in the West Village and the Gander in the Flatiron District, now both closed. He relocated to Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Long Island, where he and Claudia Taglich founded Lush Life Group; they started with Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner 2 Spring and expanded with their neighboring the Chef’s Counter at Four. Gioia is their latest Oyster Bay addition. “I had been thinking about this concept for a while,” Schenker explained, and they finally found the right space.
Why you should know about it: Schenker and Taglich are leading hospitality figures on Long Island, an established and growing destination for food and fine dining, as well as the home to wine regions on the North and South Forks.)
When it opened: Gioia opened Dec. 9.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/restaurant-news-gioia-long-island-pasta-122823_1600.jpg] [credit= (Evan Sung Photography)] [alt= A plate of gramigna pasta with spicy sausage, spinach and Grana Padano cheese][end: article-img-container]
The culinary approach: Named for the Italian word for “joy,” Gioia looks in particular to Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region for its culinary influences. Schenker emphasizes seasonal vegetables in his dishes, including a range of antipasti, sides and handmade pastas such as spinach-ricotta ravioli, shrimp maltagliati and garganelli with sweet peppers, mushrooms, guanciale and prosciutto di Parma. Other entrées include polenta with braised duck, spicy whole lobster and a “t-bone steak alla Modena.”
“We’re not afraid of theatrics at Gioia,” Schenker explained. “Our spritz cart wheels right up to your table, where guests can enjoy [a] spritz (or martini or Negroni) prepared tableside. We also have a cheese trolley, dessert cart and tableside assembly of our baby gem salad … there’s a lot of action.”
What’s on the wine list: “The concept of the list is ‘a day trip from Bologna,’ so every wine was grown within a day’s drive from Italy’s culinary capital,” said wine director Will Marengo. He is “trying to shine a light on almost exclusively small, family-run wineries, with an eye on many of the lesser-known examples of Italy’s thousands of indigenous grape varieties.”
The 46 Northern and Central Italian wines on the main list encompass the likes of Lambrusco rosato, Erbaluce from Piedmont, Verdicchio from Marche, Cabernet Sauvignon from Venezia-Giulia, reds from Liguria, skin-contact whites and red bubbly. Acclaimed names include Valle d’Aosta’s Grosjean and Piedmont’s Enrico Serafino.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/restaurant-news-gioia-long-island-c-122823_1600.jpg] [credit= (Evan Sung Photography)] [alt= The dining room at Gioia, with white brick walls, set marble-top tables and leather-backed bistro chairs along the bar][end: article-img-container]
Gioia also taps a nearly 400-selection reserve wine list shared with 2 Spring and the Chef’s Counter at Four. Going beyond Italy to cover France, California and other regions, it also features older vintages from celebrated producers such as Chablis’ François Raveneau and Barolo’s Ceretto. But the shorter Gioia list is the heart of the program, Marengo explained: “Just as the majority of the Gioia recipes include a mere three to four well-balanced ingredients, our goal was to keep the list simple and easy on the eyes, while still giving our guests a host of high-quality options.”
The design: Long Island–based Stephanie Ditullio created a trattoria-style space, with bistro chairs, brass features, dim lights and an exposed brick wall behind the bar. At an “aperitivo bar,” guests can watch the culinary team prepare cheese and meat. Also in view is a station for preparing pasta, another glimpse into the workings of this warm, inviting restaurant.
The neighborhood: In the historic town of Oyster Bay, a cultural and culinary center on Long Island’s North Shore, Gioia isn’t far from Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park and Beach, as well as Beekman Beach, Oakcliff Sailing Center and Raynham Hall Museum. “Oyster Bay, being midway between NYC and Montauk, is an ideal place for a food and wine enclave,” Schenker observed. “Long Islanders no longer need to trek to the city for a Manhattan-caliber dining experience: It’s all right here.”
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