Wait: There is no wait at 7:45 p.m. on a Tuesday. Service: The basics — keeping glasses full, being polite, etc. — are automatic for this crew. What makes them some of the finest around is putting the customer first and their team style.
When the wine my friend orders is out, he's offered a similar bottle and not charged the $10 difference. They're out of sea bass, but we're offered the grouper with the sea bass preparation. After debating between desserts, we're told we can swap our pick with the one we dissed if we're not happy.
The only reason I can't give them an A+ is because they ran out of two items without knowing it.
Meal: The mini ricotta gnocchi with lamb sauce is light and slightly spicy. We sponge up every bit of the hot, chunky tomato-based sauce with the complimentary bread.
The seasonal tart with sautéed tomato and red bell pepper has a buttery, flaky crust worth fighting over.
Tonight's handmade pasta entree is fettucini with wild mushrooms, leeks, tons of Tuscan kale and freshly grated Parmesan. The pasta is delicate, you can really tell the difference between this and store-bought stuff.
One of the menu's mainstays is Nonni's Sunday Chicken — tender thigh meat braised with white wine, herbs and mushrooms sprinkled with grated Italian cheeses and paired with two triangles of toasted polenta. It sounds simple, but there's many flavors going on — all of which are exquisite.
Don't miss dessert; the pineapple upside down cake and pecan square are sensational.
The grouper is a bit overcooked, the only speed bump in this delightful culinary journey.
Scene: An eye-catching saguaro skeleton rises up in the center of the white-linen-draped dining room, and walls are adorned with various mediums of Southwestern and cowboy art. It's Old West all the way at this upscale-casual gourmet restaurant.
Oh, and Sandra Day O'Connor and friends were dining at a big circular table behind us.
Bathroom break: The private restrooms were hung with art and had fresh flowers.
Tab for four: $190 with tip and tax for ricotta gnocchi ($9.50), savory tart ($8.50), house-made Berkshire pork sausage ($9.50), mesquite grilled lamb chops ($29), grouper ($28), Nonni's Sunday chicken ($20), handmade pasta ($19), pineapple upside down cake ($7), pecan square ($7) and homemade vanilla bean ice cream with limoncello ($7).
If work weren't buying: Rancho Pinot is one of the best restaurants I've ever been to, and chef-owner Chrysa Kaufman wasn't even working the night of my visit!
Rancho Pinot Grill|
6208 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Major cross streets: Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road
Hours: 5:30 p.m. to close daily
Booze: Full bar, walk-in wine cellar
Health report: No major violations on Jan. 6
Kid friendly: No
Web site: ranchopinot.com