There are many wonderful restaurants in Temecula Wine Country. The advantages are obvious – many different choices of wonderful cuisine at a variety of price points and atmospheres. One distinct disadvantage is the possibility of missing a place that should not be missed. If you have missed Pinnacle Restaurant, or it has been a while since you have been there, go and experience the changes that have happened at this beautiful hilltop eatery.
The once white, sterile environment has been replaced by warm colors, with soft window treatments framing the singular view. The dark wood tables are elegant and welcoming. The changes are not only cosmetic. Restaurants, ultimately, are about the food. Head Chef Gianni Ciciliot believes that food is best when it is bold, fresh, and not too complicated. The menu, changed twice yearly, reflects Chef Gianni’s Italian heritage, cooking with ingredients fresh from his mother’s garden. Evident also are the years he spent apprenticing at the Ritz Carlton. In the time that he has been at Pinnacle, Ciciliot has created a menu and an atmosphere that reflects the very best type of food Wine Country has to offer.
The Ancho Chili Spice Rolled Tempura Shrimp and Avocado is a delicious and cheeky take on the seafood stuffed avocado. The avocado and shrimp are generously coated with flavorful Ancho chili powder, dipped in a light tempura batter and fried. This knife and fork appetizer is served on a slaw that is made with jicama, cilantro and fried wontons. It is dressed with a clean, fresh, lime garlic dressing and is wonderful when paired with a smoky, hearty Falkner Meritage.
One of the most popular items on the menu is the Lobster Mac and Cheese, which is exactly as rich as it sounds. Tender, perfectly cooked chunks of lobster are folded in to a creamy sauce with Parmigiano, Romano, Asiago, and Jack cheeses. Salty slivers of Prosciutto are arranged on top. Paired with Falkner’s Sauvignon Blanc, the citrus tones of the wine balance the creaminess of the dish.
Unlike many head chefs, Chef Gianni makes most of his own desserts. The Zabaione, a traditional Italian custard, makes excellent use of Falkner’s well-respected wines. The custard itself is made with Riesling, contributing the slightest floral quality, while the berries served on top are marinated in Falkner’s Port Wine. The dessert, served beautifully in a martini glass, is fresh and delightful. Just when it seems it might be too sweet, the fresh bright taste of berry comes through. Just when the tartness of the macerated berries takes center stage, the lusciousness of the custard comes forward. It is perfectly balanced between the two and is a great end to any meal. Not all the desserts are so elegant and subtle. Pinnacle also serves a giant, nearly plate-sized ice-cream sandwich that begs to be shared.
On Thursdays Pinnacle offers a “Surf and Surf” directed at those looking for something healthier. Salmon with a sweet soy glaze is served with skewered shrimp, fruit salad, and grilled melon. In the lingering warmth of fall, it is light and refreshing.
With a set menu, many chefs look to the weekly specials to show their creativity, and try things that may, someday, become part of the daily menu. The weekly specials at Pinnacle, served Friday through Sunday, are based on a monthly ingredient that is prepared a different way each week. In the past months, specials have been based on huge Rib-eyes, and Swordfish. For September, “Lion’s Paw Scallops” were chosen. The huge flavorful sea scallops were prepared differently for each of the four weeks of the special.
Restaurant manager Angel Abril has said of Chef Gianni, “His food speaks for itself”, but now, Pinnacle Restaurant speaks for itself. The restaurant has been in Temecula for four years, but has now reached its own potential. The combination of the beautiful décor, warm efficient service, and first class food makes it a lunch destination not to be missed.
Pinnacle Restaurant is located at Falkner Winery, 40620 Calle Contento, Temecula CA 92591
Hours: 11:30AM-3:30 PM