Not many restaurants in Southwest Washington can claim that they began as a chicken coop, then morphed into a horse stable and then became part of a winery. But then again, there aren’t too many that can also brag about pizzas, paninis, macaroni and cheese, several appetizers and even a couple of desserts, which are all wood-fired, as well as a wonderful selection of Italian-style wines.
Perched on the edge of a vineyard in the hills above Battle Ground, the Rusty Grape Vineyard is where we find this historic and rustic restaurant.
Rusty Grape’s specialty: Italian-style wines (bottles from $15 to $26 and glasses from $7 to $11), and wood-fired food served at an extremely relaxed and unhurried pace. My Peach Blond beer was $5.25, a glass of Take Flight White, $8.
The appetizer my dinner companion selected was the Amaretto Brown Sugar Brie ($9.95), a generous slice of wood-fired oven-baked brie gleefully floating in a golden pool of liquor and brown sugar, served alongside wood-fired grilled bread.
Rusty Grape also features salads, including side ($5.25), Caesar ($8.95), Insalata Verde and Caprese Melt (both $11.95). The Tre Porcellini (a panini filled with salami, prosciutto, smoked ham, tomato, smoked Gouda, fresh peppers and artichoke aioli for $13.95) is spared the wood and fire treatment.
Rusty Grape offers a dozen pizza varieties ranging from $12.95 for the Quattro Formaggio to $18.95 for the Suprema with artistically arranged Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, Italian mozzarella on top of red sauce, olives, onions and fresh peppers.
We each opted for pizzas, knowing that the 15-inch size would provide the next day’s lunch. My companion selected the Pizza Pera ($16.95) and loved the presentation of prosciutto, goat cheese, and luscious pears on an olive-oil brushed thin dough. Even though I’m not a thin-crust kind of guy, I loved the crust, from the softer underlay to the crispy edges.
I figured I’d try something new, although just about all their pies qualify as “something new.” I ordered the French-inspired Reine (pronounced “ren”) — thin yummy crust again, Italian red sauce, whole milk mozzarella and fontina cheese, with prosciutto and sliced brown mushrooms. It was so good I left a mere two pieces for my lunch.
Our dessert was especially fun because of the staff’s willingness to customize it for us. We went back and forth between the Apple Empanada (stuffed with gooey apples and topped with ice cream) and the Wood Fired Bananas Foster (bananas cooked in amaretto and brown sugar poured over waffles and ice cream), both $12.95. We asked if we could combine the two. They immediately agreed and provided us with a large apple-filled empanada with three scoops of ice cream, heartily drizzled with the amaretto-brown sugar sauce. OMG!
It looked so good that co-owner Heather Brown said the restaurant might consider adding this iteration to the dessert menu. And by the way, owners Heather and Jeremy, her husband, are the servers. No waiters bustle about asking every 30 seconds, “How is your food?” Relaxed and unhurried, remember?
And if you’re asking, yes, our custom dessert was wood-fired and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Rick Browne can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.