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Pecora Nera

Pecora Nera

Destination: Puerto Viejo

You'll find this fabled "black sheep" at the end of a local block, like a buried treasure among the back roads and pristine foliage of Playa Chiquita. Underneath the palm-thatch roof, among the stylish wood and stone décor, Italian Head Chef and Owner Ilario Giannoni creates culinary masterpieces, often acting as if they're an afterthought, like it's just something he does to pass the time.

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Giannoni's Italian menu features three-day rotating specials among an inspired menu that treats Italian cuisine as a foundation to be built upon, rather than an immutable tradition.

You can still have spaghetti and meatballs or a pizza with imported Italian prosciutto and walk away dreaming of the restaurant for days to come, but it would truly be a missed opportunity not to try something more; to dazzle your palette and enjoy an extended evening meal at Pecora Nera. Luckily, Giannoni offers a tasting menu for $50 that includes two appetizers, two pastas and one entrée of the chef's selection.  Here's a sample of the tasting menu based on our experience:

Appetizers

  • Red snapper cream made with pureed local snapper and homemade shrimp pesto stuffed ravioli
  • Star fruit steamed shrimp Carpaccio topped with chopped tomatoes, parsley (from the garden), balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Pasta

  • Homemade pumpkin stuffed ravioli in a sage, butter, parmesan sauce with chopped shrimp and coarse ground black pepper
  • Maltagliati noodles with mussels, squid and shrimp in a garlic white wine sauce garnished with sautéed arugula

Entree

  • Grilled tuna with garlic basil infused creamed carrot served with potatoes au gratin and a side salad

Each dish is an experience in its own right, executed with a mastery of tastes: savory, sour, bitter, sweet and salty. Our runner-up was the red snapper cream, a full-flavored and savory cream soup with tender stuffed ravioli, where the flavor of the red snapper compliments and does not over power the subtlety of the shrimp pesto.  Our favorite though, was the homemade pumpkin stuffed ravioli, an innovative dish featuring pumpkin (seldom used in Costa Rica) that pairs excellently with the light sauce and the chopped shrimp.

Pecora Nera's dessert returns to the traditional with a creamy caramel panna cotta, $8; something sweet to round-out the evening.

Ambiance

Hang a right when you see the woodcraft sign painted with the restaurant's mascot as you head along the main road from Cocles through Playa Chiquita. At the end of the road, you'll see Pecora Nera's thatch-roofed vaulted ceilings supported by a hardwood frame complimenting the cobble stone floor and steps that lead from the lower to the upper deck; all of it illuminated softly by golden strip lighting and candle light.

Service

The service is professional and adheres to fine dining etiquette, but still retains a relaxed Puerto Viejo attitude.

Price

Appetizers $10- $17; Entrees $24-$30; Pizzas $13-$15; Five dish tasting menu $50

Hours

6 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Closed on Monday

Pecora Nera in Pictures