Hidden in the corners of Quarry Road stands Vina Enoteca, a rustic yet lively restaurant with unforgettable Italian cuisine perfect for a romantic date night, family gathering or sophisticated outing with friends. Located at the Stanford Barn, Vina Entoeca’s warmly lit ambiance is saturated with a unique historical blend of rustic Italy and the modern Silicon Valley. The restaurant’s original design was a winery for the surrounding vineyards, first built between 1886 and 1888. Today, Vina Enoteca has transformed the winery into an acclaimed Italian restaurant that prides itself on its meticulously prepared Slow Food (local food and traditional cooking, as opposed to fast food) and an excellent wine list.
We were fortunate to have experienced Vina Entoca’s dining before COVID-19. Amidst the shelter-in-place, the pandemic has ravaged much of the restaurant industry, especially impacting small local establishments the most. Though the in-person dining is closed in light of COVID-19, Vina Enoteca is open for online orders and delivery. Please check them out to enjoy a classic Italian meal in the comfort of your home!
They say you can know that an Italian restaurant is going to be good once you try their bread and olive oil. Vina Entoca’s olive oil, light and savory but with a tangy aftertaste, was simply incredible. We were fortunate to try out owner Rocco Scordella’s personal recommendations with an appetizer, four entrées, a dessert and wine pairing!
GNOCCO FRITTO CON PROSCIUTTO
We started our meal with Vino Enoteca’s Gnocco Fritto con Prosciutto. The star of the dish is the gnocco fritto, fried pillows of dough used as a scoop for the accompanying prosciutto di Parma and burrata. The burrata was perfectly buttery and the prosciutto salty and flavorful, both clearly of the highest quality. This appetizer was a wonderful introduction to the harmony that permeates across Vino Enoteca’s entire menu. The variance in texture makes for a delightful experience in your mouth, with the contrast of soft burrata, the pull-apart prosciutto and the chewy gnocco fritto playing off one another.
SPAGHETTI CACIO E PEPE
Cacio e Pepe — fresh spaghetti with crushed black peppercorns and Pecorino Romano cheese — is at its core a very simple dish, yet it has stood the test of time through the history of Italian cuisine. You can think of it as the wiser, more mature grandparent of macaroni and cheese. Its bold, peppery flavor is immensely rich for what you could expect from just a few ingredients. The pasta was perfectly chewy and the thin disk of crispy fried Pecorino on top brought the dish’s textures together nicely.
AGNOLOTTI IN CODA
(Photo: Francesca Kim)
We can’t stop talking about this pasta. Each agnolotti was constructed around a homemade oxtail filling, creating an explosion of flavor upon each bite. The richness of the oxtail was balanced nicely with the light, but memorably fragrant, sage butter sauce. Like all of their dishes, this pasta was served in a classy, imperfectly shaped ceramic bowl that looks like it’s taken from the earth, a reminder that their food is made with the freshest of ingredients.
We can’t think of a more appropriate dish for the Stanford area. The colors of the dish match the slowly-changing leaves of our surroundings and the halibut filet reflected the best of what our coastline has to offer. The quality of this dish was nothing short of what we had grown to expect from our previous courses: The halibut was subtle in flavor with a light sear that supported a bed of fresh, lightly-charred julienned bell peppers. The fish was on top of a butternut squash puree and garnished with a nutty bean crumble.
The Sophia Pizza packs a rich, smoky punch to your classic cheese pizza. What you’ll first notice upon grabbing a slice is the decadent, gooey cheese that seemingly never stops stretching out. In comparison to its common Mozzarella counterpart, the smoked Scamorza cheese brings a milky and creamy, yet uniquely smoky and slightly sweet tone to the meal. The roasted garlic adds complexity to the smokiness of the pizza as well. The Sophia pizza can be described as an elevated version of the ubiquitously loved meal—one you can’t go wrong with even with the pickiest diners.
We ended our experience with a light and fresh chocolate praline dessert. The foundation of the dish was an airy piece of chocolate cake atop a ruby red fruit glaze spread across half of the plate. The raspberries and blueberries couldn’t have been fresher, and the dessert was topped with gold-coated macadamia nuts, a classy touch that reflected the attention to detail in all of Vina Enoteca’s food.
Q&A with Owner Rocco Scordella
The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you realize you wanted to get into restaurants and culinary work?
Rocco Scordella (RS): I started when I was 13. I was born in the South part of Italy, then raised in a small town in the North. My family had less money than a lot of my friends, so I wanted to get a job when I was 13. My dad was like, “Are you sure?” but I said let’s try it. I started working in a pizza restaurant in a hotel, and being 13 working a job like that, I could meet new people, stay out at night, so I liked the job. I liked the business, so I went to culinary school when I was 14. From 14-19, I went to culinary school in Bologna, and since then…now it’s been 26 years in the restaurant business. Then I traveled around Italy and stayed in Manchester to learn languages —I thought it was very important for the business. After, I went to Paris for a year and a half and then worked for the chef that taught Mario Batali how to cook. As a present, I was sponsored to go to New York City, not speaking any English. I lied to Mario saying I could speak English. But when I got there [it] didn’t work out so well (laughter) so Mario got really pissed…But I eventually learned it because I’ve always loved learning languages, and learned English in a year. I also dated a girl, who is now my wife, who taught me English.
TSD: Where do you get your inspiration? Have other chefs that you’ve worked with or looked up to influenced your restaurants?
RS: Working for Mario Batali was a great experience, because his approach to Italian cuisine is spectacular—served for 400 people in a Michelin star restaurant, which is almost impossible. Most of the time, it’s the recipes and books that I brought back from Italy; my chef is from Naples and I’m from Bologna, so we’re two opposites. This is good because it brings two different styles and recipes, and it’s about finding the balance between my ideas and his ideas.
TSD: Why did you move out to California?
RS: So my wife, we met in New York, she came to work as a bartender. She’s from here, so after a year and a half in New York our lease was up, I was offered to be a manager, but managers make less money than servers in New York, so I became a server but didn’t really like it. I love traveling, so I told my wife, let’s check out California. First in 2007, we moved from New York to here, we lived in Santa Clara, and we slowly got into opening restaurants. We opened up [Vina Enoteca] 11 years ago.
TSD: How would you describe Vina Enoteca’s food, are you trying to bring something that is very authentically Italian, or something more modern and Californian?
RS: We are very lucky to be in California where we can find very good ingredients, which is what Italian cuisine is. Everything there is made from scratch. We try to use mostly local ingredients. Of course, with Prosciutto Crudo, you’ll never have Prosciutto Crudo from California that is as good as Italian, so we import that. Our olive oil is Sicilian—Italian olive oils use 100-year-old trees, whereas California’s [are] probably 5 to 10 years [old]. So there are a few things that we import because the flavors are special, but otherwise all the fish, meats, vegetables we get local—most of the vegetables come from the Stanford garden.
Overall, Vina Enoteca adds an exquisite twist to your traditional Italian dining. If you would like to experience their cuisine at this time, you can support them and order at https://www.vinaenoteca.com/.