Walnut Creek's Il Pavone a true Italian classic

Walnut Creek’s Il Pavone a true Italian classic

Walnut Creek's Il Pavone a true Italian classic
Chef Marcello Bigotti handcrafts the menu at Il Pavone with seasonal ingredients and Italian favorites. (Richard Eber photo)

Richard Eber, Taste and TellWALNUT CREEK, CA (Dec. 29, 2022) — If you want to commemorate this time of year by partaking in an upscale meal at a white tablecloth establishment, Il Pavone Italian Restaurant in Walnut Creek is a wonderful option.

Since 1991, brothers Marcello and Nick Bigotti have offered their patrons Tuscan style Italian cuisine that reminds one of what might be served at the renowned North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco. This type of food is lighter than those at Sicilian eateries that are more common in the United States.

While Il Pavone’s menu is relatively small, each item is handcrafted and unique. Chef Marcello, who freely admits to loving his job, toils each day in the kitchen to create Tuscan classics from osso bucco to hand-cut petralli sole.

Growing up in San Francisco, he was part of an Italian restaurant family. Marcello briefly attended culinary school but soon became bored, preferring to learn the trade at such notable places as the Blue Fox and Harry’s Bar and, later, Spiedini in Walnut Creek.

As a result, his menu includes family recipes, items from trips to Italy and his own creations. A good example is the carpaccio appetizer of thinly sliced raw beef dressed with capers, arugula, mushrooms, olive oil and assorted herbs.

Select ingredients

High-quality ingredients play a crucial role in the Il Pavone dining experience. Using California Shellfish’s seafood, Mana Foods’ veal and Italian tomatoes from Stanislaus Foods, Marcello is super particular about what goes into his dishes.

He even cures his own blood sausage, pancetta, salami and prosciutto. These traditional Italian meats can be found in Il Pavone’s outstanding Saltin’Bocca and pizza selections.

As might be expected, pasta plays an important role, and Marcello makes his own ravioli and pasta utilized in other dishes. I am especially fond of the lasagna, which features Bolognese and creamy béchamel sauces. Another crowd pleaser is the spaghetti carbonara with Il Pavone’s house-made pancetta. Their veal meatballs are outstanding as well.

They also offer traditional Italian specialties of veal, chicken, shrimp and fish. For cold winter nights, they even have an Italian pot roast served in a rich porcini mushroom wine reduction sauce.

If one is in the mood for pizza, Marcello’s creations do not disappoint. The Gambera, with white Gulf shrimp, sundried tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella and goat cheese, is my favorite. The Sciacciatina flatbread featuring gorgonzola and gruyere cheeses with pistachios brushed with olive oil makes an excellent main course. It can also be an appetizer to be enjoyed by the entire table.

Seasonal items

The seasonal items are among the many things that make this restaurant unique. Marcello shops each day to find fresh ingredients to fill his menu. As an example, he only offers bruschetta bread and Caprese salad when tomatoes are in their prime. The same goes for chanterelle and porcini mushroom raviolis. Currently, Marcello is offering fresh pumpkin ravioli served in a butter sage sauce with a hint of nutmeg.

On my last visit, I had the tripe that featured a light tomato sauce with bits of meat, garlic and tender beef intestines that begged to be dipped in sourdough to extract every morsel on the plate.

If one might have room for dessert, seasonal berries, light panna cotta cake and other treats are made daily. Next time, I hope they are serving tiramisu.

Il Pavone offers a pricey but excellent wine list of California and Italian vintages put together by Nick. He also handles the catering business, which is quite busy this time of year.

Il Pavone is at 2291 Olympic Blvd., Walnut Creek. Excellent onsite parking is provided. They are open 11:30-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and every evening for dinner. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends, at 925-939-9000.

Contact Rich Eber at ­rjerje@pacbell.net

Rich Eber
Rich Eber

Rich Eber is a local journalist and long time resident of Concord.  His diverse topics covered go from politics to gourmet food.  He can be reached at rjerje@pacbell.net