The name is misleading. Panolivo is NOT an Italian restaurant. It’s really a French bistro in the heart of Paso Robles owned and operated by the Cop family. Didier is the manager; his wife, Beatrice, the chef, and his daughter is contributing as a dinner server. They’ve been running Panolivo for six years with their primary focus: breakfast and lunch. They decided to open for dinner Fridays and Saturdays only, so they could, in Didier’s words: have a life!
If one had to narrow it down to one specialty, it would be Panolivo’s pastries: the REAL thing. And it’s not just the breakfast items. While the croissants are flaky and buttery, Beatrice uses her talents as a pastry chef to also create an amazing Seafood Croustade, a puff pastry filled with shrimp, scallops, clams and calamari, topped with a creamy mushroom sauce ($20). Then there are the breads. The dinner rolls are the quintessential French bread…more like mini baguettes. Even the Brushetta ($10) is special, served atop Beatrice’s Ciabatta. What a surprise. Usually when you bite into one of these tomato/olive/herb concoctions, the bread is so crusty it literally shatters when you bite into it. Not here. It’s a softer variety that absorbs the delicious mixture, making it easier to consume. The Ciabatta is also served with baked goat cheese and sundried tomatoes as an appetizer ($10). The unused pastries of the day never go to waste. Au contraire! They’re used to make a unique bread pudding ($7) immersed in white and dark chocolate and served with a coffee cream. Yum.
The pastries are not the ONLY good thing about Panolivo. There are also the traditional French entrees such as Beef Bourguignon ($20), nice and smoky from the bacon they use in the stew; Duck with Cherry Sauce ($28); Toulouse Cassoulet ($24) prepared with a leg of duck confit, Toulouse sausage, house cured Kurobuta pork and Lingots blancs (white beans).
Didier prides himself on his wine pairings. He especially enjoys helping patrons select the right wine for their meal. His wine list includes many hard to find French varietals as well as other more recognizable labels.
Panolivo itself is a charming venue with three dining rooms. The front room looks out onto the street, a bit more casual than the others which are dimly lit and more romantic. The atmosphere becomes more formal on weekend evenings when the Cops bring out the fine linen and pipe in Didier’s selection of French tunes…another of his favorite pastimes.
If you happen to see bees here and there (not the live variety, of course) they’re apparently the symbol of Provence, and a decorative motif for Panolivo.
I can’t conclude this review without mentioning the coffee. It’s superb! I asked Didier where it comes from, and apparently it’s the only secret he refuses to reveal. He’d only tell me it’s from San Rafael, and that they only sell to restaurants. Alas.
Panolivo hours of operation are 7:30am to 8:30pm daily serving breakfast lunch and dinner without interruption.
1344 Park St.
Paso Robles, CA 93446