In the early years of Berks County Eats (circa 2012-13), blog posts were sporadic.
For those two years, I only did 12 restaurant reviews. Two of those restaurants have closed, two of them have moved. The other eight continue on, and for me, they are simply noted by an “x” on my spreadsheet of Berks County restaurants.
In May of 2013, I checked Panevino off my list. Three years and three months have passed since Julie and I visited the Italian restaurant on the corner of Second and Washington, across from the Reading Movies 11 & IMAX.
Thirty-nine months later, it was time to go back.
Panevino is in a tough location. It doesn’t have the visibility of Penn Street, and so far, it remains the only business among several empty storefronts on the first floor of the Albert Boscov Plaza.
On the plus side, Panevino customers can enjoy free parking in the garage above it.
Both Julie and I were surprised to see all of the open tables when we arrived for our reservations. It began to fill up as we ate, but the spacious dining room still looked empty.
Our waitress dropped off our menus, which were different than what I found on Panevino’s website. Slightly pared down, all of the entrees now come with an appetizer and dessert included so there is no excuse for leaving hungry.
Before our apps arrived, we were treated to an excellent sampling of parmesan pita bread with white bean hummus. It was compliments of the chef, not something available on the menu, but it was delicious. The small portion left us wanting more.
Instead, we were served our choice of bread: focaccia (Julie), ciabatta (me) or asiago cheese (odd bread out) with olive oil for dipping. I would have liked a little bit of seasoning in the oil, but the breads were good, especially the focaccia.
Up next were our appetizers. For me, it was the arancini di riso, three large fried balls of rice, meat, peas and cheese, served with mushroom sauce.
There was definitely plenty of rice and a nice amount of meat, but I don’t remember seeing many peas. The mushroom sauce was good, if a little thin. The rice definitely soaked it up well, though.
Julie, on the other hand, was a huge fan of her spicy crab and clam chowder. Not too spicy, the chowder was loaded with tomato, potatoes, a little bit of celery and plenty of clam and crab. There was never an empty spoonful, and each one was delicious.
She was also a big fan of her eggplant parmesan.
The battered eggplant was layered with Grand Padano (comparable to Parmesan) and mozzarella cheeses. The eggplant was cut so thin that it almost disguised itself as lasagna.
Everything worked together – the eggplant, cheese and a very good tomato sauce – for a delicious dish.
I decided to go with the rigatoni. I normally wouldn’t have gone with something so boring, but the roasted red pepper sauce sold me on it.
The sweet Italian sausage was very good, but I wanted just a little more red pepper in my sauce. It was there, but it didn’t distinguish it enough from a traditional tomato sauce.
It was a good meal, though I was left wanting something just a little more to make it feel special.
Dessert definitely did not disappoint.
I was torn between the crème brulee and the peach and blueberry cobbler, finally settling on the cobbler. I made the right decision.
The blueberry-heavy sauce had bubbled over the sides of the mug with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Slices of peach were scattered beneath the puffy pastry topping.
It was just a little sweeter than I would have liked, but it was still an amazing ending to my meal.
Julie’s sweet treat was New York cheesecake with orange sauce, garnished with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. It was delicious, especially with that hint of citrus throughout.
That wasn’t the only sweet treat that my wife enjoyed during our visit. Her chocolate raspberry martini lasted her through the meal.
And for two entrees, two appetizers, a pair of desserts and a martini, we still paid only $50. We’ve paid more than twice as much for three-course meals other places.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Panevino is not fine dining. They try hard, but it’s not the same as a meal at Dan’s at Green Hills or Heirloom.
Still, it was a nice night out in an underappreciated restaurant.