Valentine’s Day Dinner at Il Palio in Chapel Hill!

Good afternoon!

Matt and I went out to a fun Valentine’s Day dinner last night at Il Palio, an Italian restaurant inside the Siena Hotel here in Chapel Hill. We originally planned to go out to dinner on Friday night, but Matt was sick all weekend and ended up staying in town this week. He’s feeling all better now so it worked out rather well to be able to spend actual Valentine’s Day together! With the exception of post-run brunches, I hardly ever go out to eat here, so it was fun getting dressed up and going out to have a fancy dinner :)


Il Palio had a special 5-course price fixe menu for Valentine’s Day. There were a few different options in each category — it was hard to decide what to get, everything sounded so delicious!


We decided that our goal was to try as much of the menu as possible, so with the exception of our starter course and dessert course, we ordered different things so we could taste each other’s :)

First things first — we ordered a bottle of wine!


Our waiter helped us pick this out and it was seriously one of the best wines I’ve ever had. I feel like whenever I’m in California doing tastings, I always LOVE all their Chardonnays, but every time I order one out at a restaurant back home I’m always disappointed. This was certainly not the case last night! Searching out this wine everywhere I go from now on :)

My handsome date (annoyed that I’m taking a picture of him):


While we perused the menu, some delicious cheesy bread and this AMAZING chickpea pesto spread arrived!


I really need to try to recreate that at home. It was SO good! And then, the real food started arriving :)

For our first course, both Matt and I ordered the fennel-crusted tuna carpaccio,which came with shaved fennel salad, organic baby arugula, blood orange, capers, grana padano, and extra-virgin olive oil.


We both loved it — such a unique and perfect combination of flavors. The fennel and blood oranges in particular really made this dish!

For our second course, Matt ordered the butter-roasted bosc pears with port wine, goat lady crotin, chicory, and house-made vincotto sauce.


SO good. Anything that combines pears, red wine reductions, and cheese is a win in my book.

And I decided to be adventurous and ordered the arancini, which was red wine-braised oxtail stuffed into a fried risotto cake!


Yum! This wasn’t my favorite dish of the evening, but it was tasty and it’s always fun to try something new :)

For our third course, Matt had the walnut and ricotta ravioli with yellow foot mushrooms, wilted baby spinach, and beurre fondue.


It was good, but I LOVED what I ordered — the ashley farm rabbit papardelle with kalamata olives, rosemary, and thick pasta:


Yumm… it tasted like BBQ on top of pasta!

(Sidenote — the portions are much smaller than they look in the pictures, don’t worry! Although neither of us finished our second or third courses — had to save room for the main event!)

For my main dish, I ordered the butter-poached Maine lobster tail with anson mills polenta and a madeira lobster reduction. This was SO good! Definitely one of my favorites of the evening.


Lobster + cheesy polenta? Divine. The flavors complemented each other perfectly.


Being a boy, Matt of course ordered the steak :)


Espresso-crusted beef tenderloin with caramelized potato tortiera, porcini mushrooms, and brandy cream sauce, to be exact! It was also absolutely delicious. Matt and I decided that next time we make steak, it will be espresso crusted. :)

Last but not least — dessert!


Fondue for two :) It came with cayenne-spiced chocolate fondue, mint anglaise, and strawberries, blackberries, biscotti, and vanilla straws for dipping.


The mint anglaise was insanely good — it tasted like melted mint chocolate chip ice cream! May or may not have taken a sip directly from the shot glass, to Matt’s horror. Don’t judge. You would have done the same thing had you tasted this stuff. The biscotti was awesome, too!

If you’re ever in Chapel Hill and looking for fine dining, I’d highly recommend Il Palio. The service was stellar (whisked right in when we arrived, server was attentive and helpful but not overly so), the food was excellent, and the wine was to die for. There was even a wonderful pianist playing all evening!

Needless to say, after all that food AND numerous glasses of wine, Tuesday early a.m. speedwork did not happen ;) But thankfully I was able to convince my friend Jillian to run later this afternoon, instead! Win/win — more sleep, more time to prep in the morning for my exam this a.m., AND now we get to run in the warm sunshine. Yay! I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap — including details about our second epic Walleyball game, happening tonight!

What’s the best/most memorable restaurant meal you’ve ever had and where was it?


  1. 1

    Your dress is STUNNING – and of course, you look great in it :).

  2. 3

    Love your dress and all that food looks fabulous!
    A very memorable meal I had was at a steakhouse in Niagara Falls. We had just gotten into town and we were starving so we walked down to a restaurant called “The Keg” and had the most amazing meal ever! Who knew Canada had the best steak?

  3. 5

    I loooooooooooooove your dress!

  4. 6

    Chickpea pesto sounds delicious!! I ought to try that!

    Slash girl you are GORGEOUS

  5. 8

    Matt and I went to a bed and breakfast in Green Bay a few VDays ago and the owners made us reservations at an amazing Italian restaurant. We still talk about it to this day!

  6. 9

    I’ve stayed at the Siena before but never eaten at Il Palio! We do have sorority cocktails there on occasion which is always fun. Looks like an amazing dinner!!

  7. 10

    oh man that food looks amazing!!

  8. 11

    How fun! I love going out to eat. The most memorable meal I’ve had was with my parents in Italy! I can still describe everything I ate in detail – two years later!

  9. 13

    Europea – Montreal
    Amazing food, great service and lovely atmosphere. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Montreal.

  10. 14

    OMG! Everything looks so good! If I lived closer, I would definitely go to that restaurant!
    Nothing comes to my head about my best restauarant experience ever-which kinda makes me sad:(

  11. 15

    Sucha fun date! The best meal I have had was at a small lunch place in Italy. I am pretty sure it was my amazing company!

  12. 16

    Everything looks wonderful except the oxtails. I would have sipped from the shot glass as well. By the way, you look beautiful in that red dress. Matt doesn’t look too happy about the photo you took of him does he.

  13. 17

    I love that you said the portions were smaller than they looked, until then I was thinking dang those are small portions, David would have stolen mine by now :) HA! Looks like a fantastic evening :) PS, we need to chat soon!

  14. 18

    great choice! i’ve been to il palio and liked it – such a lovely, romantic atmosphere.

    if you haven’t tried them yet, two chapel hill places i have to mention are:

    a) bonne soiree — classic french cuisine, amazing wine pairings, ridiculously romantic atmosphere (although i have to admit, i would be TERRIFIED to have a camera in there! i believe the menu reminds you to silence your cell phone :) )

    b) lantern — asian fusion on the west end of franklin. fun atmosphere, cool bar, GREAT food, and reasonable prices. my family is obsessed with this place – we go a lot when they visit.

    oh, and a bonus b/c it’s our new chapel hill go-to: [ONE] restaurant in meadowmont. a bit more modern and funky with an eclectic menu, but they do things very well, and i like the urban atmosphere :)

    • 19

      Ooo awesome!! We’ve been looking for local recommendations – thank you! :) Bonne Soiree was another place we tried to go last night but it was all booked!

  15. 20

    Chickpea Pesto sounds so so sooo good!

    The best restauarnt I’ve ever eaten at was in Italy. It was hidden away off of a centre in Rome, seriously down a street that was 3 feet wide. It was such a gem and had the best food ever.

  16. 21

    Love the red dress.

  17. 22

    You look wonderful! Very nice — and sounds like a terrific dinner w/Matt. Thx for sharing the photos/details.

    Best dinners were always those with family/friends in nice places!

    Look forward to a full report on the speed work!

  18. 23

    My most memorable lunch was at the Magnolia Room at Rich’s Department store in downtown Atlanta. (No longer exist, boohoo) From childhood through adulthood, even though my mother had 10 children, nine girls and one boy, she always took each girl to the Magnolia Room for luncheon on their birthday every year. Just mommy and the birthday girl. This was etched in my memories forever. My brother didn’t want to go so they did something else.

  19. 25

    The meal looks incredible and you look absolutely beautiful in your dress! What a fun night. :D

    Most memorable meal: eating mussels in a white wine sauce with my entire, extended family in New Brunswick, Canada. What. A. Blast. I have so many memories from that particular vacation. :D

  20. 26

    You look gorgeous!!!!

    This restaurant looks awesome. It made me SO excited for my upcoming trip to Italy!!!

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