By Helen Trisky, Reviewer Extraordinaire
Have you ever had the pleasure to eat at the corner of North Sierra and West First Street in downtown Reno? Yes, the old JC Penny’s building for those who have been in town a while, which houses Liberty Food and Wine Exchange. One word – Amazing!
If you haven’t been in while, there have been some changes in the Mark Estee owned artistic eatery restaurant. Liberty Food and Wine recently completed a $150,000 renovation project, which now includes a wood-burning oven. The oven features a grill side and a pizza side cooking “great” shared plates and pizzas quickly in its 800 degrees.
When you enter the eatery, the decor is simple and elegant, making you feel special while partaking of the wonderful savory and tasty offerings on the menu. The menu features something to tantalize the taste buds for every one from the shared plates, to wood fired pizzas, vegetables, pastas and lunch plates. (We were there for lunch.). It was hard to choose from the wide selection of things Chef Estee and his staff have come up with.
While it was a tough decision to make, our server Serena, was professional, smart, well versed in what was on the menu and suggested things we might like. She even offered us Focaccia with an oil and balsamic vinegar dipping plate. As for the rest of our order we decided to split a shared plate (Sausage platter) and a wood fired Margherita pizza. The Sausage plate and the Salumi/Charcuterie items change depending what has been produced – always new combinations to try. Serena explained the Sausage and the Charcuterie plates of the day to us. Your taste buds will actually tell you – “more please!” once you have the first bite and still want more after the last.
The focaccia came and “WOW!” soft tasty and definitely something you want more of like when you bake bread at home and eat the whole loaf right out of the over. It was Liberty’s take on the traditional Italian specialty bread. (I did get the recipe from the pastry chef, thank you!)
The Sausage platter arrived containing three types of sausages, Calabrese, Sweet Italian and Basque style chorizo. The sausages are all made and cured in Liberty Food and Wine Exchange’s own USDA certified butcher shoppe. In fact all the meat used at any of the Estee restaurants comes from this butcher shop located on the Liberty premises. It also provides the meat for Chez Louie (in the Nevada Museum of Art), The Union (Carson City) and The Overland (Gardnerville).
The Pizza was perfect! It wasn’t doughy, in fact the dough is a special recipe created by Ryan, the pizza guy at Liberty Food and Wine. Ryan even has a pizza on the menu named after him, The Ryan.
The best part after chatting with owner Mark Estee and his executive chef, Geoffrey, was the guided tour we received of Liberty Food and Wine Exchange by Marketing Director Brennan Best.. The main dining area is where you enter. As you move back in the building you find the pasta station with water boiling and ready for any order. Then comes the massive wood fire pizza oven and grill. (Things do taste better when grilled!) one side grills– the other bakes. The salad station concludes the main dining room’s kitchen, all to handle the meals served in the eatery that is much more than artistic. It is creative, visionary and excites the taste buds. Liberty also has a room for special groups and parties available.
Liberty also has a market space in the restaurant were they sell baked goods, meats and even their pizza dough.
A surprise and likely the highlight on this visit was the grand tour we were given of the Liberty Food and Wine Exchange and Liberty Food Catering full service catering operation located under the restaurant in the basement of the building. In over 40,000 square feet you will find the USDA Butcher Shoppe, a pastry kitchen, a prep kitchen, storage areas for equipment and a place that will make you want to go back upstairs and eat again – where they store the salami and sausages all USDA approved and certified.
Liberty also caters and it does large and small events .
Liberty Food and Wine Exchange is located in the heart of Downtown Reno at 100 North Sierra Street. It is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm. Lunch is served 11 am to 5 pm and Dinner 5pm to closing. A Sunday Brunch is also served. There is a Happy Hour at the bar 3 pm to 6 pm.