Imagine a glass-and-metal box containing automated wine-dispensing machines and a small yet efficient kitchen that pumps out Italian food.
If it sounds like “The Jetsons” meets a Roman ristorante, that’s pretty much what’s going on at the new Bodovino Ristorante at The Village at Meridian.
Bodovino has enjoyed much success with its flagship wine bar and eatery since debuting in BoDo nearly three years ago. Oenophiles come in droves for the self-serve, wine-dispensing machines (made by WineEmotion) that get activated with prepaid charge cards.
Because the food at the Boise location comes out of a closet-sized kitchen — I’m talking a hallway closet — it’s limited to cheese plates, charcuterie, flatbreads and some basic appetizers.
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In Meridian, on the other hand, the menu is full-blown Italian ristorante thanks to a larger kitchen. (OK, it’s still closet-sized, but more like an oversized walk-in closet.)
The restaurant and bar is a testament to efficiency and usage of space. It’s located in Fountain Square in a location originally designed for a few smaller food vendors. It’s a spot just like the food-court concept going on across the fountain in a similar-looking building that houses Calle 75 Street Tacos and RiceWorks, two food-truck vendors who have gone brick and mortar, so to speak.
Cacicia’s Cucinas Old World Sicilian Foods used to be in the natural light-bathed space where Bodovino Ristorante now resides. Consulting chef Nick Duncan, who has spent time in Italy, came up with a menu that bounces around the Boot. It’s a tad bit Florentine and a smidge Roman, with some southern accents thrown in for good measure. Chef de cuisine Jesse Hill handles the day-to-day kitchen operations. He formerly worked for Duncan at the defunct La Belle Vie in Nampa, in addition to cooking at Brick 29 Bistro.
The antipasti portion of the dinner menu isn’t vast, yet it takes care of business with a cheese plate, salumi (assorted cured Italian meats) and a couple of wine-focused appetizers.
Caponata ($6) comes out nice and chunky, made with tangy roasted eggplant, good olive oil, red bell pepper, pine nuts, celery, onion and garlic, meant to be spread on crunchy crostini.
Even though the beef carpaccio ($8) is well-intended, the raw Piedmontese beef here wasn’t exactly pounded paper-thin as you would expect. Sure, the crimson-hued beef tasted fresh, topped with puffy, fried capers, finely grated Pecorino Romano and red clover micro greens, but the promised drizzle of citrus-infused vinaigrette never made it onto the plate. But that’s an easy problem to fix.
Main courses get served a la carte, and just below that list you’ll find some side dishes for a few extra bucks intended to accompany the entrées.
You can’t go wrong with the garlicky lamb chops Romano ($16; a half-rack cooked medium-rare) in a pool of Dijon-white wine reduction accented with fresh rosemary. The pan-seared lamb was leaned on a pile of nutty-tasting chanterelle mushrooms ($7) sautéed with garlic, white wine and sage. Try a 3-ounce pour ($6 from the machine) of robust, oaky Rutherford Ranch Winery Cabernet Sauvignon with this full-flavored dish.
The inspiration for the salmon Amalfitano ($16) hails from the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy. Of course, there’s no salmon in the Mediterranean, but lime and lemon groves are common in the region. One night, I enjoyed a perfectly cooked fillet of pan-seared salmon (its crispy skin dotted with lemon sea salt) garnished with zesty citrus compound butter, which quickly melted into the fish and underlying mound of creamy risotto ($5). A 3-ounce glass of fruit-forward French Chardonnay ($9; Pouilly-Fuisse Marie Antoinette) turned out to be a good pairing.
For a sweet conclusion, you would be remiss not to go for the house-made chocolate truffles ($7), a plate of six dense and creamy orbs of dark chocolate (dusted with various seasoned sugars and citrus salt) adorned with a Jackson Pollock-like squiggle of bright and syrupy raspberry sauce.
At lunchtime, a scaled-down version of the dinner menu, including some sandwiches and flatbreads, gets served from from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
The panini-pressed pork belly sandwich ($10.50) is a hit, thanks to crisp, corrugated slices of focaccia that barely contains tender pieces of pork (slow-cooked with spicy fennel confit), arugula, shaved red onion and lemony cream sauce with hints of garlic. The sandwich, in my case, came with a spinach salad topped with Gorgonzola crumbles, plump red grapes, bacon and sweet Dijon dressing.
A small Caesar salad ($6) covered the requisites well (chopped romaine, crunchy croutons and lots of microplane-grated Parmesan), yet the garlicky Caesar dressing didn’t boast an expected anchovy punch.
Carbo-load with the linguine and kale ($14), a tangle of al dente fresh pasta mingled with garlic-infused olive oil, braised greens, finely grated Parmesan and probably too many untoasted walnuts. It’s all about balance with simple pasta dishes. This one is close to being perfect.
All in all, Bodovino Ristorante is off to a good start at The Village. Service is attentive (but not constantly in your face), the Italian fare surely has nuance, and operating the wine machines is just plain fun.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 3630 E. Monarch Sky Lane, The Village at Meridian
Phone: (208) 887-5369
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu price range: appetizers, side dishes, salads and sandwiches $6-$14; main courses $11-$23.
Libation situation: There are 56 worldwide wines in the card-activated machines (offered in 1-ounce, 3-ounce and 5-ounce sizes), in addition to bottles of wine, draft wines and handcrafted beers, and a full-service cocktail bar.
Kid friendly? Not really. Do yourself (and the restaurant) a favor and leave the wee ones with a babysitter for a few hours. Younger kids and tall stemware don’t play well together.
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: August 2016