314 E. Broadway Granville, OH (740) 587-3333
Even the drive out to the Granville Inn is lovely. Then, when you get to Granville proper, it is movie lovely. Everything is manicured and made of stone or brick, the trees hang out over the roads on both sides, and the drivers stop to let the people in the crosswalk cross. It’s like Colonial Williamsburg, but set in a contemporary Midwestern bedroom community/college town. Oh, and the people who live and work there are not actors. But, for real, they got themselves a pretty town in Granville.
At the end of the prettiest street in town, right where it starts to wind up into the hills, sits an old stone inn. Its rough-hewn sandstone bricks give it a manorly hunting-lodge sort of allure. Inside, the floorboards creak and the ceilings are lofted. One cannot discern whether the echoes coming down the wide hallways are those of current diners’ conversations or the benevolent ghostly presence of the thousands that dined or stayed at the Inn in its long and storied history. We’ll assume it is the banter of satisfied and quite-living guests, who have just or are in the middle of enjoying some of Chef Rocco Valentino’s remarkable dishes.
Although the airy foyer and the soft, lofty dining room may lead patrons to prepare their palates for standard inn fare, there is so much more than prime rib and potatoes going on in here. Chef Valentino has truly gone pan-traditional with his food. There’s French, California, Tuscan, Asian and probably a little Martian, and Chef Valentino has made it all work together in a markedly unlikely setting. Sure chef has kept some of the old stand-bys on his menu, but even those he has completely reconstructed. His modernization of the Caesar salad leaves you wondering why it hasn’t always been served in a parmesan tuille, for example. It kills with the Pinot Grigio from Estancia. Accolades are seldom given to any domestic Pinot Grigios by anyone at C Magazine, but this one deserves them, unless it is the rampant deliciousness of Chef Valentino’s salads confounding everything.
It is strongly encouraged that even salad-and-entrée people consider getting a round of appetizers in addition to the standard two courses. Hell, you already went all the way to Granville, so the evening is already an event. Go ahead and get some of the seared rare tuna. Chef Valentino isn’t just peppering it, searing it and drowning it in some soy-ginger-lime sauce thing. He pairs it with a mound of al dente Soba noodles for a little texture under the delicate raw fish, and the fleeting suggestion of sauce really allows the tuna itself to shine – literally and figuratively. This will kill the Pinot Grigio, if there is any left, so try a fuller white, like a California Chardonnay or maybe even a light red. Burgundians go great with tuna.
It is necessary to mention at this point that care must be taken not to fill up on salads and appetizers, no matter how great the temptation. This particular meal cum event absolutely must include dessert. Please plan ahead.
It is probably a good idea to get the fish entrée first and split it. That way, the rest of the Pinot Noir or big Chardonnay from the last course can keep you and the fish company, while the humongous red breathes and the chef puts the finishing touches on the meat dish. If the leftover wine from course two is a Pinot, the choice of fish is a no-brainer. Chef Valentino does some Diver scallops with Morels. If Morels are not something familiar already, this is the perfect dish to make their acquaintance. The gentle fungal funk of the Morels infiltrates the soft sea-creaturely flesh of the huge scallops. Remember, the right amount of funk is an exceptionally good thing. Think: truffle, Morbier, aged meat. The right balance of funky and savory was exactly what aristocrats used to decapitate chefs for not accomplishing. Chef Rocco Valentino gets to keep his head.
That’s good news for all of us, because that’s where his recipe for the duo of beef tenderloin and crab cakes came from. His rack of lamb came from the same place. Now, those two make deciding on the meat course difficult. The easiest way to do it is just flip a coin. Either way, that huge red that you were letting breath will slay. What was it? A Napa Cabernet? A Super Tuscan? Doesn’t really matter, as long as it is inky and tannic and ready to go toe-to-toe with succulent medium rare tenderloin or garlic rubbed lamb chops in a thick demi.
Relax a moment or two before getting the requisite dessert. Finish the red. Mop up some more sauce with the nearest crust. Don’t waste any energy on deciding what sweets to have. Simply order “dessert” and see what they bring. Everything we had the pleasure to dip into was tremendous. So, let someone else decide, but be sure that some orange Muscat is in the glasses before whatever it is arrives.
Whew, after that, it’s probably a good idea just to grab one of the soft, comfortable rooms at the inn and just make a weekend out of it. You can get up and walk to the shops on Broadway in the morning, reflecting on the magical evening past.