Palio is the restaurant my BFF Wendy chose for our celebratory dinner in honor of her recent birthday. She hadn't been there for a long time, and I had remarkably never eaten there. (So many restaurants, so little time! And I like to cook, of course, so I don't eat out as often as people think I do.) Wendy had offered to go anyplace I might want to write up for a Frugal Floozie Friday feature, and I'd offered to take her anywhere she wanted to go for our party of two. Turns out, we each won!
Now, a girls' night is a fabulous thing even if you're sitting on the sofa in sweatpants, only eating popcorn and ice cream. But it's an even more wonderful time if you can look out over Main Street on a gorgeous Friday night as the sun is setting, and spend hours talking, hoping, and dreaming while enjoying wonderful food. We were thrilled to find that the rooftop - Palio del Sole, with its own menu differing a bit from that of the restaurant downstairs - had a table for two just waiting for us.
Wendy ordered her favorite dish, the Cannelloni di Funghi [cahn-eh-LOH-nee dee FOON-ghee]; it was a tremendously generous portion, enough to feed at least two people, but the pricing puts it out of our mandatory budget of $5 or less per person. (Worth every penny, but ....) Should you not be striving for budget consciousness, it is a stellar feast of pasta with mushrooms, cheeses, and a Florentine tomato sauce.
I, however, found two ideal frugal options, though one would never know they were inexpensive to see or taste them. I started with a simple Insalata Verde [een-sah-LAH-tah VAYR-day], expecting a small-ish bowl the size of a side salad. As you can see, there was a full dinner plate of gorgeous fresh greens, luscious ripe tomatoes, and my beloved Gorgonzola. This was lightly dressed with good green extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, in a subtle vinaigrette that just coated the vegetables.
I also ordered the exceptional assortment of tapenades pictured above: Roasted Garlic with Olives, Artichoke Lemon Herb, and Goat Cheese with Sun-dried Tomatoes. For a mere $7.95, I received generous portions of each spread, which could easily have been split by two to average out at less-than-$4 per person. I was able to take about two-thirds of this home (having started with the salad, of course), and thoroughly enjoyed them all again the next evening. These are delicious treats that are a tremendous deal!
The olive tapenade was my favorite, with a vivid flavor that let hints of the garlic shine through. The artichoke spread was wonderful, with a chunky texture. It was great to find true artichoke flavor, rather than having it diluted with the ubiquitous spinach. (Not that I haven't eaten my fair share of that famous dip!) The sharpness of the goat cheese shone through in the tomato variety, and it was so rich and creamy.
Now, a birthday party isn't a real celebration without sweets. So, of course, we asked our fabulously charming waitress, Erin, to bring the dessert tray 'round for a perusal. Never underestimate the skinny girl with the sweet tooth or her amazing BFF who runs half-marathons: I ordered an obscenely decadent, brandy-laced tiramisu and Wendy ordered the rich and spicy carrot cake ... and yup, we chose a third dessert and split the unbelievably seductive chocolate-drizzled peanut butter pie.
I think Erin was both appalled and yet rooting for us. But she's also a distance runner, so we all bonded over celebratory eating as a great motivation for either runs (Wendy) or long walks and free weights (me) since one must burn off the calories. Desserts are $5.95 each, but are so large that they are easily split by people who are less ... let's be polite, and say "indulgent." (Yes, we finished every extraordinary bite.) So they can easily come in under the $5 per person budget, and would make a lovely treat after a movie or a concert, or "just 'cause."
So, whether you want a perfect summery salad all to yourself, or whether you want to split a distinctive appetizer or luscious desserts, Palio has a variety of frugal options to choose from. Go! Enjoy!
347 S. Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Monday - Thursday: 5 - 10 p.m.
Friday - Saturday: 5 - 11 p.m.
Sunday: 4 - 9 p.m.
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