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‘Surrounded by the sun’ is the name and the setting
I rediscovered a chill pill this summer that doesn’t involve a prescription. It’s dinner alfresco, here in The Plains. The first few moments alone compensate you for having made the trek to Virginia hunt country and the patio of the family-run restaurant, where the background music is spun by a fountain, a handsome stone chimney rises nearby, and the surrounding trees and bushes hint at the possibility of lemon, figs, kumquats and more on the Italian menu.
Meet the owners: Lydia Patierno is the welcoming mistress of ceremonies outside and in. Her husband and co-owner, Louis, is responsible for the brio on the plate. Scarlet folds of house-cured bresaola ring a fluff of ricotta striped with local honey, and agnolotti stuffed with spinach and ricotta are positioned just so on their pool of cream sauce. Calamari fritti capture the ideal: greaseless, crisp, garnished with fried parsley and sunny with lemon. One reason to order chicken here is to taste how good the products are from nearby Upperville and Warrenton. Another is their preparation. Generous grinds of cracked pepper and a brick to press the chicken super-close to the heat reward the recipient with a blast of spice and an entree that crackles when you bite down.
While Patierno feels obliged to retain crowd-pleasers, specials are a way to keep his cooks interested. Their engagement is likely to grab your attention, too. In Italian, Girasole translates to both “sunflower” and “surrounded by the sun.” Anyone who has been to the Patiernos’ restaurant might also know it as tranquil and tempting.