Sienna: Continually Astounding Italian Comfort Food on Daniel Island [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Sign Daniel Island

SIENNA would only net six points in Scrabble, but earns adoration on Daniel Island.

This was my third time dining at Sienna, the pioneering Italian restaurant that chef-owner Ken Vedrinski opened on Daniel Island in March 2004. Twin signs, with letters that looked like sunken Scrabble tiles, greeted us. I don’t know how many points S-I-E-N-N-A would score in Scrabble, but when it comes to Stateside Italian food, the restaurant deserves at least a triple word score.

Bread Daniel Island

Every day, Pastry Chef Caitlin Kelly bakes different breads to fill stylish metal bowls.

The evening’s bread selection included Parmesan flatbread, ciabatta and garlic sage biscuits. Chef Vedrinski created a recipe for addictive cheddar biscuits during his nine-year stint at Woodlands Resort & Inn that were so devastatingly good that the restaurant still serves them. Chef Kelly created a fairly successful homage. Bocconcini, diced tomatoes, olive oil, Kalamata and green olive slivers accompanied the breads, a massive improvement on straight butter or olive oil.


Prized Atlantic bluefin tuna is almost uniformly sold by American fishermen to Japan, where they can earn several times as much money at auction in venues like Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. Seeing bluefin on a menu in the States is indicative of a restaurateur who’s dedicated to quality. At Sienna, Chef Vedrinski’s signature Crudo of Maine Bluefin Tuna in Four Preparations ($14) changes daily.

Fish Daniel Island

Vedrinski dressed bluefin tuna with aged Barolo, garlic slivers, finely diced onion, and olive oil; and soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and pickled vegetable strands.

Fish Daniel Island

Two more bluefin tuna crudo preparations involved tangerine, fennel, red pepper, spicy red pepper flakes, and olive oil; and mushrooms, crispy shallots, and olive oil.

Salad Daniel Island

Sienna Caesar Salad ($9) was dramatically plated, with a ruler-shaped Parmesan crostini fitted through two openings on either end of the space age bowl. The salad was well-dressed, strewn with shavings of Parmesan cheese and topped with meaty fillets of Sicilian white anchovy, which were satisfyingly pungent and salty.

Salad Daniel Island

Belgian Endive Salad ($11) contained fried grapes, ten-year-old balsamic and a central scoop of dolce Gorgonzola gelato.

Soup Daniel Island

The menu description for Nonna Volpe’s Italian Wedding Soup (for 2, $14) didn’t reveal much.

Our waiter carried a metal pot to the table and lifted the lid, uncorking a tempting aroma. He ladled the soup into two oval shaped bowls. Chef Ken’s Grandmother (Nonna Volpe) clearly knew what she was doing in the kitchen, crafting a recipe for chicken and vegetable soup loaded with herb-flecked meatballs. There were little bead-shaped pasta, a dice of carrots and celery, and herbs from Sienna’s backyard garden.

Handcrafted Pasta

Pasta Daniel Island

Calamarata “Duck Bolognese” ($20) featured zesty tomato sauce strewn with crumbled duck, poured over a bed of al dente pasta shaped like conveyer belts.

Pasta Daniel Island

Strozzapreti (half, $16), known as “priest stranglers” in Italy due to Umbrian clergymen’s inability to stop eating them, were strewn with hedgehog mushrooms, topped with crispy discs of guanciale (pig cheek) and plated in light Parmesan broth.


Pork Daniel Island

Our waiter described “Berkshire Pork in Two Preparations” ($26) as a braised pig cheek and sautéed tenderloin scaloppini. What we received was different and much more elaborate.

Braised pork cheek arrived on a spinach and farro bed. On top were slivers that looked like almonds but were roasted salsify, a root vegetable also known as Jerusalem artichoke. The salsify was sprinkled with crispy bits of pancetta. The farro “risotto” was blended with a little Parmesan, adding a subtle creaminess to the somewhat nutty grain. The second preparation was thin, crispy pork tenderloin Parmagiana, two crisp, thin-pounded slices of pork on spinach, topped with mozzarella, toasted pine nuts and sweet pear compote. This dish was certainly one of the year’s best.


Dessert Daniel Island

Ultimate Dessert Tasting ($15) featured five different compelling desserts from Chef Kelly.

  • Milk chocolate panna cotta arrived in the shape of a cylinder, with a plume of peppermint “bark” – a sheet of chocolate studded with crushed peppermint.
  • Tiramisu Moderno, Stile di Sienna, was a chocolate torte with mocha panna cotta, chocolate espresso semifreddo and white chocolate cream.
  • Mascarpone panna cotta was surrounded by a shallow pool of espresso cream with crushed espresso beans and topped by a rectangle of gelatin.
  • Sigaro della Mandorla was a fried almond “cigar” with Marsala zabaglione (sweet custard).
  • Panettone bread pudding was dusted with confectioner’s sugar and plated with cider sauce and a fruit compote of apple, pear, raisin and cranberry.
Dessert Daniel Island

“Nutella” ($9.50) included three triangles of two-toned chocolate fudge, plated with a streak of Frangelico caramel sauce, and a hazelnut gelato scoop on crushed hazelnuts.

Family Dinner Daniel Island

We hope to make Sienna dinner an annual family tradition.

After two stellar meals at Sienna, expectations were high, yet I was still astounded by the flavors we encountered. At its heart, Sienna offers Italian comfort food, only prepared with more skill and presented with more flair than any other Italian restaurant I’ve encountered Stateside.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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