The Inn at St. Peter’s Village
3471 Saint Peter’s Road
St. Peter’s Village, Pennsylvania
The Artful Diner
Perched on the bucolic banks of French Creek, it’s difficult not to be completely enamored by The Inn at St. Peter’s Village
. Created by David Knauer in 1881, the Inn was lovingly restored to its former glory in 2005. The interior is comprised of a cozy bar area, tastefully appointed dining room that seats 45 patrons, and extensive facilities for weddings, banquets, and various corporate events. The Inn is also a Bed and Breakfast, boasting six unique guestrooms for overnight stays.
Ambient charms notwithstanding, when an establishment derives a lion’s share of its income via the wedding/banquet circuit – as does the Inn – I tend to look upon the food with a particularly circumspect eye. The cuisine is billed as “Contemporary Italian,” which is really somewhat of a misnomer as the menu is predominated by more traditional fare – pizza, pasta, veal, chicken – and variations on the red sauce theme. And like many restaurants, the kitchen is quite capable with regard to certain areas of culinary endeavor, less so with regard to others.
The appetizers, for example, seemed to hit all the right notes. The calamari – which can be as chewy as rubber bands – was inordinately tender, the dusting of Italian seasoned flour properly crisp, and the accompanying marinara rich & hearty; the Caesar salad was a classic representation – pristinely fresh romaine, judiciously applied Caesar dressing, and satisfyingly crunchy croutons; and the involtini di melenzane – slices of eggplant gussied up with prosciutto, ricotta, sharp provolone, tomato sauce, and mozzarella – decadently addictive. And the lentil soup, a daily special, was no slouch either. Aided and abetted by diced bacon and vegetables, the broth exhibited a marvelous depth of flavor.
When it comes to entrées, pastas are a sure thing. The rigatoni Bolognese – a comfortable commingling of beef, pork, pancetta, onions, garlic, celery, seasonings, and splash of Barolo wine swimming in a rich tomato sauce – is nothing short of benchmark. And the very same may be said for the lasagna fortified with a rich besciamella (béchamel) sauce. Also highly recommended are the various incarnations of pizza and the plebeian – but most satisfying – spaghetti and meatballs in fresh marinara.
Other main courses suffered from a variety of faux pas. The zuppa di pesce (seafood stew), for example, contained pristinely fresh shrimp and tilapia filets… but the clams and mussels had definitely joined the over-the-hill gang. An evening special of artichoke-crusted salmon companioned by creamy risotto & sautéed spinach looked picture-perfect on the plate… but it was overly salty on the palate.
The veal Marsala was another story. The veal was the real deal, meaning it was “real” veal, not the processed junk that exhibits the taste of consistency of wet Styrofoam (and saves restaurants a ton of long green), and the Marsala had a nice depth of flavor…
But... and there’s that word again… the kitchen dumped a copious side of spaghetti and portion of mixed vegetables on the same plate, which, in contrast to the above-mentioned salmon, displayed the aesthetic sense of Attila the Hun in the midst of a feeding frenzy. At the very least, the pasta should have been served up as a separate entity and the veal & veggies more attractively arranged.
I am not saying that every culinary presentation needs to qualify as a work of art… On the other hand, neither should it resemble the regurgitation of an endangered species… as the oral cavity can only ingest what the optic nerve can endure.
Desserts, though, are right back on track. And when the pumpkin cheesecake is available, do not hesitate to dive right in, as its delightfully creamy countenance and addictive gingersnap crust are definitely worth the price of admission.
Despite a few inconsistencies, the Inn at St. Peter’s Village has a great deal to recommend it. And with the holiday season approaching, I have no doubt that a sojourn here will be a particularly pleasant dining experience.
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