I stumbled upon Pepenero Cucina Mediterranea when out on a girls night while browsing through the Mercato in Building 50. I was familiar with Stella’s and Tastes of Black Star Farms, but had no idea this place existed. Boy, do I hope to get the word out and that this place sticks around!
The amazing smells emanating from the kitchen made us rethink our dining plans; we were going to head downtown to dine. Once we perused the menu posted outside and confirmed a walk-up was available, we chose to dine at this tiny establishment. There were two other parties dining on this Friday night around 6 PM. They had room for a handful more, but it is a tiny establishment so reservations would be the safer way to go.
The server was extraordinarily helpful and willing to explain the menu and the origin of the various dishes. She provided a brief history on the restaurant. She suggested different ways to dine depending on our hunger level and ways to split things. We opted to forgo the appetizers and split a salad while each ordering our own entrees. The salad was easily sharable; they plated it separately, and they even split the charge on the bill for us. While it came with what they termed Italian dressing, it was the lightest most delicate dressing imaginable. I did pepper my salad just a bit after the first few bites.
They offered 6-8 entrees and 4-5 pasta courses from which to choose. There were a couple of specials for the evening and one menu item was not being offered due to not being able to find the quality of seafood the chef desired. I opted for the Chicken Marsala. I would have chosen the Veal Picata, but my dining partner didn’t particularly like veal or lemon and we hoped to try each others choices. She ordered the mushroom ravioli. Both were artfully presented and of the perfect portion size. My chicken was fork tender and well seasoned above the marsala flavor. The ravioli was rich and decadent.
I wanted to try their house tiramisu and was not disappointed. The lady fingers where spongy and thoroughly soaked in espresso. The light cream complemented the bold coffee. It was a delight like no other. I can’t wait to try their canoli at another visit.
I cannot wait to visit again now that I know this hidden gem exists. Traverse City has a few nice Italian options, but this one has moved to the top of my list.
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