Ristorante Paoletti

Ciopino Paoletti

Duck Confit with Arugula

Tiramisu

Branzino Adriatico

Gnocchi al Filetto di Pomodoro

Four years ago, I reviewed Ristorante Paoletti in these pages. 

That’s a challenge in itself. It’s been a Main Street Highlands institution for 33 years. It’s earned its stellar reputation through its exquisite menu, impeccable service and a wine selection that reads like a domestic offshoot of the Milestii Mici collection. 

(About that selection – I know someone who comes in from Santa Fe to peruse Paoletti’s offerings. Not to revel in the beauty of Highlands or to bask in the sunshine of my personality. She comes for Paoletti’s carefully-curated collection.)

The challenge of the assignment came from maintaining a critical attitude while being relentlessly seduced by the place. I didn’t want to come across as a hopeless shill for Paoletti’s, but the kitchen and the service and the sumptuous atmosphere made it darn near impossible. 

We left in a belt-loosening, spa-level stupor. A glorious spa-level stupor. 

That’s why I was thrilled when I was once again assigned Ristorante Paoletti. (That’s the official name, although everyone I know calls it Paoletti’s. Maybe that’s because most people who’ve spent any time in Highlands and Cashiers come to know Arthur and Chef Kevin Paoletti. They have that kind of personality and they own that kind of restaurant).  

So how was I going to maintain my integrity and critical faculties for a second visit? When the solution presented itself, it was staggeringly simple.

In my initial visit, it was just my sweetie and myself. I raved about the intimate atmosphere and how the setting just invited whispered conversation.

This time around, I’d take a group of friends along. The type of friends for whom a whispered conversation is a bit suspicious. Let’s see if that Paoletti’s magic held up to a tableful of raconteurs, fueled by that famous wine selection.

Well, it turns out it does. In fact, it seems to work even better for groups. The broad menu allows everyone to simple just a bit of everything. Consider these appetizers and ask yourself if you could resist begging your tablemate for a bite – Calamari Fritti, Yellowfin Tuna Tartar, Escargot alla Bourgougon, Beef Carpaccio, Roasted Beet and Orange Salad. 

The same applied for the entrees themselves – Risotto con Frutti d’Mare, Chicken Picatta, Scampi con Broccolini o Fra Diavolo, Grass-Fed NY. Strip with Gorgonzola Butter, and Porcini Crusted Rack of Australian Lamb. Kevin still maintains control over the kitchen and his recipes. We were good about sharing and, in fact, the act of sharing seemed to increase the buoyant tableside conversation. 

In fact, there’s an undeniable electricity about Ristorante Paoletti, centered on the full-service bar and extending to all corners of the place, that seems to magnify lively exchanges.  

So I tried to maintain my critical faculties this time around, but I’m confident that I maintained them throughout our dining experience. There are some restaurants that earn their impeccable reputation night after night, and I report on them with clean hands and composure. I just can’t come up with anything less than a rave for Ristorante Paoletti’s flawless execution.  

(As an aside, let me add that our server Maggie was an absolute delight, anticipating our needs and wants like a Dining Room Mary Poppins. She was invaluable in helping us select the correct wine for each plate.)

If you choose to dine at Ristorante Paoletti, reservations are a must. Call them at (828) 526-4906. They’re located at 440 Main Street.