No Stone Unturned

Before we launch into another mouth-watering review, can I please drive home that this is the last couple of weeks to enjoy 15% off from Santa Fe Ole Food Company, purveyors of fine green chile sauce? Just use the code bighungry2012 on their site through April 16 to receive your discount. In addition, I’d be tickled if you’d sign up to actually follow my blog, which is easily clickable in the left-hand nav on this page. Join the Big Hungry Shelby Facebook page today for an extra photos, fun, and frequently, bacon. You also should think about following me on Twitter @BigHungryShelby. You know, if you’re cool.

A couple weeks ago, my parents and I took another fun road trip with two of our pageant girls, Allie and Maggie, and two of our pageant board members, Stan and Deltra. We were heading from Watertown down to Verona for the Miss Mohawk Valley Pageant, and stopped off for a pre-event dinner at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. After running around the place like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find a table that could seat us with no reservation on St. Patrick’s Day (whoopsie!), the kind folks at Pino Bianco Trattoria took pity on our black souls and granted us passage, and a pretty fine meal, to boot.

Lovely light fixture over our hard-won table

Pino Bianco is one of Turning Stone’s more upscale dining options, which range from fast food counters in a food court set-up to fine dining. It is utterly lovely inside, though we were seated outside the actual trattoria in a sort of inside “sidewalk café” area, apart from the main aisle of the casino but also from the main dining room.

For starters, we were brought a tray laden with white bean dip, oil cured olives, bruschetta, and foccacia bread with roasted tomatoes and herbs baked right in. The dip was a showstopper, better than any old bean dip I’ve had before – smooth with pungent lemon, oregano and garlic flavors.

Phenomenal bean dip. I’ve never typed those words all together before.

The salad round was pretty standard, with the exception of a very acidic house vinaigrette and a snappy, yummy little parmesan frico, which gave me the opportunity to teach my tablemates about the method of baking or dry-pan-frying off a little pile of grated parmesan into a crunchy little cheese chip.

Get your frico on; fly your frico flag

Allison, our Miss TI 2012, is a vegetarian. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to hang out. Guys, she has a pet pig. And she does NOT appreciate it when I offer to come over and eat him for her. But on this night, being an animal lover paid off in the form of her eggplant rollatini, which was delicious. As Pino Bianco has a pizza oven, I imagine the smoky elements I tasted in this rolled eggplant dish originated there, and the bubbly, browned mozzarella cheese over top provided a comforting blanket of yum.

Not a hint of pork in this
I taught her a lesson with my order: osso bucco. Sigh. Big Hungries, I cannot resist the siren song of braised shank meats. It’s a real problem. I was all set to order the lobster ravioli, but once our waitress listed braised veal shanks as a special, all plans went out the window along with the following: smaller belts, my willpower and any chance Allison will let me in her house, ever. Luckily, this dish was worth it, with the fall-apart tender meat cascading into the pool of stone-ground polenta underneath and everything bathed in the clean, sweet flavors of tomatoes and carrots. There was even a nice bone with the marrow still in it, which I scooped onto a piece of bread and gobbled up, completely alienating at least 50% of my fellow diners. Welcome to Caveman’s Table, folks.
I mean, they put the spoon right in the marrow. Wasn’t I supposed to eat it?
Mom got one of the specialty pizzas, which wasn’t particularly remarkable, but certainly very tasty. It had very mild sausage and good garlic flavor to it. The crust was on the thin side, but not shatteringly so.

Dad and either Stan or Deltra took it easy and ordered the antipasto platter. The cippolini onions were a big hit. I think they were marinated in a sweet and sour agridolce mixture like on the Mediterranean bar at Wegmans. Plus, someone took some time to arrange this plate. Pretty, right?
Say it with me: agri dole chay

So yeah, this meal cost a pretty penny. And we were sitting in a casino. But I’ve got to say, this was fine, fine food, and the lengths these folks went to find a spot to feed our large party on a busy night is admirable. You know what else? While casinos aren’t really my scene, I mean, if I’m spending money, I like there to be something definite to show for it – a ton of people legitimately flock to these places in their leisure time. Plus, Turning Stone has done a remarkable job renovating over the last few years. If you haven’t been in five or ten, give it a shot. The spa is high end, they have new tower rooms for overnight guests, and there are several good restaurants like Pino Bianco on premise. And the sound of slot machines, but that’s beside the point, right? Hee.

We awarded Pino Bianco a surprising 8 on the BHS scale. There wasn’t a thing on that table that wasn’t delicious, and the service was downright warm and welcoming. From a glance at their dessert menu, I’m betting (Ha! See what I did there?) it’s delicious as well, but as there’s a cheesecake café directly across the hallway, you may want to take a respite at the roulette table and then grab your treats elsewhere.

I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger the past few weeks at work, Big Hungries, so my Facebook and Twitter time has been cut down. If you have anything yummy or fun to share, pop on over and do it. You don’t need me to start the fun. I’ll be back next week with a Binghamton Restaurant Week review and just maybe some fun details on my latest celeb encounter. I know you’re waiting with baited breath. Until then, mis amis…my personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

Pino Bianco on Urbanspoon


  1. A sprig of something green on the agridolce plate wouldn't have sucked. With you on braises... be it lamb, veal or work boot...everything's better when braised! Nice work!

  2. I'd never think to put bean dip on a menu. Interesting!

  3. Bean dip I've put on sausage before...uh, lemme explain... white beans with kale, a little garlic, a little fire roasted tomato puree and thinned with a little chicken stock served over a nice length of Linguice in a pepper and fennel roll.... think deconstructed Caldo Verde.... but I'm a bean dip whore otherwise... bland or otherwise!

  4. Agreed, Pav, braising is boss! I just added you to my blogroll, BTW. My Big Hungries need to get on board with the dog.

  5. I meant to say pureed together into a paste.... me am a moron!