Locally sourced food and wine from Madera and the San Joaquin Valley
By Kimberly Horg
The Vineyard Restaurant attracts locals and travelers alike, serving quality food in a convenient as well as aesthetic environment. Since 1977 it has brought customers locally sourced food and wine from Madera and the San Joaquin Valley.
The Mariscotti family has been in the restaurant business since 1915. Robert and Helen Mariscotti closed their first restaurant when the highway was built and opened The Vineyard. The original idea was to start an upscale coffee shop but that idea was before its time. The menu consists of Italian and American lunches and dinners.
“It’s Italian and American food with Italian sensibilities,” owner Christopher Mariscotti, said. “The restaurant has stayed basically the same throughout the years.”
Mariscotti was there when his parents opened the restaurant, working alongside mom and dad. After moving away to college, he decided to move back to the Valley and help out with the family business. His dad is now pushing 90 but still comes in regularly for dinner.
Mariscotti’s grandparents were from Italy so the food is made from old-world family recipes. It uses as much local produce as it can in its homemade soups, starters, salads, pasta and signature dishes including its Zinfandel Braised Lamb Shank, which is slow-cooked with herb mashed potatoes and vegetables.
Another top seller is The Vineyard’s signature Lasagna, made with sausage, beef, ricotta and tomato sauce. Flavorful yet hearty, full of meat, sprinkled with mushrooms, onions and cheese throughout.
The menu varies for lunch and dinner and has daily specials depending on the season. It offers customers fresh fish of the day and serves Harris Ranch beef for its steaks which includes an 8-ounce, USDA-choice steak topped with mushroom sauce, served with herb mashed potatoes and vegetables or a 14-ounce rib-eye steak with Italian herb compound butter, served with vegetables and garlic roasted Yukon potatoes.
The menu was originally, and still is today, printed on grape crate paper. It is another example of how the family tries to use natural products for its restaurant.
“We have been in Madera for a long time and are part of the community and try to support it by buying local products,” he said.
The Vineyard has a full bar that opened in the 1980s which features local wines. It has an extensive wine list consisting of 50 different wines, one third of which are local, and all are from California wineries.
It occasionally hosts winemaker dinners in which winemakers talk about their wines and pairing options. It also caters for various winery events.
Mariscotti says a lot of special dinners are celebrated at his restaurant, for birthdays and anniversaries. According to him, a huge amount of his customer base is regular customers, up to 50 percent. There is not a certain age group that flocks to the restaurant; groups of 20 year olds and 70 year olds frequent the joint. Travelers taking a break, date night, business meetings or regular customers coming in for the usual – it offers something for everyone. It is busiest during lunch hours.
The atmosphere is pleasantly inviting with high ceilings throughout, featuring brick and wood accents with burgundy floors and booths. It has an open feeling with large windows that look out towards the patio, fittingly decorated with grapevines crawling up a large trellis.
“People should come here for the friendly atmosphere and good food that is well served,” Mariscotti said. “You can’t get any better food anywhere else in town.”
He says the food is not only tasty but is a good value for the money. Customers can also rest assured that it is a spotless environment to dine in.
The Vineyard is located in Madera at the junction of Highway 145 and Highway 99 at 605 South I, in the San Joaquin Valley. Reservations are only required for large parties. It can host business meetings, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries and funeral receptions. It is open every day except Sunday but can open on Sunday for private parties only. For more information call (559) 674-0923 or visit www.vineyardrestaurant.com.
Feature photo: The Zinfandel Braised Lamb Shank, which is slow-cooked with herb mashed potatoes and vegetables and The Vineyard’s signature Lasagna, made with sausage, beef, ricotta and tomato sauce. Photo by Kimberly Horg.