Ristorante Paoletti’s

440 Main St. Highlands, NC | (828) 526-4906
It’s easy to luxuriate in Ristorante Paoletti. The rich décor, subdued lighting, and, let’s face it, expansive wine list make it the perfect spot to shed the cares of 21st century life.
Ristorante Paoletti
Highlands, NC | Website

It’s easy to luxuriate in Ristorante Paoletti.

The rich décor, subdued lighting, and, let’s face it, expansive wine list make it the perfect spot to shed the cares of 21st century life.

Yeah, that wine list. Ristorante Paoletti offers nearly 1,000 labels, some dating back to the 1940s. Fortunately, the staff is well-versed in the intricacies of its twin cellars and can help you navigate. Or you can linger at its fully-stocked bar and indulge in carefully-crafted microbrews, full-bodied cocktails and cordials that invite conversation.

Those conversations are crucial to the ambience of Ristorante Paoletti. This is a restaurant that invites conversation – whether it’s intimate and hushed or a raucous celebration, the place thrums with the passion of people sharing their lives.

And the talk, all of that talk, eventually turns to the menu. Paoletti’s has been a Highlands landmark since 1984, so they’ve had a lot of time to perfect its bill-of-fare.

We turned the decisions over to our server, and his years and years in the game were evident in his confident choices.

I started with Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, which struck me as an unusual bet in a mountain resort town.

I’ve said it in this column before and it bears repeating here: Trust your server.

My appetizer was brilliantly balanced with wasabi and sesame seeds and, indisputably fresh.

My lovely companion ended up with a Melanzine Rollantine, a profoundly confident eggplant with ricotta, mozzarella, basil and parmesan in a light tomato sauce. Again, we were struck by the server’s recommendation, and again his conviction was true. It turns out that the humble Melanzine Rollantine is a remarkably accurate gauge of the kitchen’s commitment. This dish was made with passion and care.

These first impressions carried over into our entrees – Risotto ai Limone al Fruiti di Mare and a magnificent Porcini Crusted Rack of Australian Lamb.

The Risotto was presented with a flourish and fragrant with lemon. Genuine risotto can be tricky and this served as a hearty base for a generous helping of grilled shrimp and scallops.

My Lamb was jacketed by a dusting of porcini, which served as a perfect complement to the rare interior. A generous dollop of madeira reduction demi-glace proved the chef’s mastery of subtle flavoring.

I could go into more glorious detail about the entrees, but I had to save room for mention of the oh-so-indulgent Tira Misu. This is the real thing, made with reverence and serving as the perfect exclamation point for all those conversations.

My sweetie and I ordered the Pistachio Gelato and the Mixed Berry Gelato, but once more our server steered us toward one of the kitchen’s glories, this Tira Misu.

Carry your meal home in a Doggie Bag, if you have to – don’t skip dessert at Ristorante Paoletti!

And, once more, say it with me – Trust Your Server!

Ristorante Paoletti is located at 440 Main Street in Highlands. Reservations are a must, although you can almost always find room at the bar. You can even eat at the bar if you choose. Call (828) 526-4906.

- By Luke Osteen