Enjoy an Italian Escape in a Hill Country Winery at Trattoria Lisina
Venture just outside of Austin for dinner at this Tuscan-inspired restaurant and winery
Many Austin residents like to venture out to the Hill Country for a much-needed break from city life. Beautiful oak trees, fields of bluebonnets (during bluebonnet season, of course), the occasional glimpse of livestock, clear and open skies–the region overflows with scenic beauty, which is why a sit-down dinner at a Hill Country winery feels inherently special whether you’re on a romantic date, celebrating a birthday with friends, or enjoying a solo night out. Trattoria Lisina, the on-site restaurant at Mandola Winery in Driftwood, serves as a prime example thanks to its picturesque views, charmingly old-school decor, and hearty menu of Italian favorites.
Unlike many Austin-area eateries these days, Trattoria Lisina doesn’t lean into trendy pared-down restaurant aesthetics. Instead, they commit to a Tuscan-inspired look with stone walls, brick arches, iron lanterns, and white tablecloths. This classic “Italian winery” vibe shows Trattoria Lisina’s confidence in its own identity, and it’s a pleasant and nostalgic experience for those of us who grew up dining at similarly-outfitted Italian spots on the East Coast. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table near the large picture windows that overlook the grounds, you’ll be treated to a gorgeous view of trees, flowers, vines, and the wide Hill Country sky.
While Trattoria Lisina has plenty to recommend it from a culinary perspective (and we’ll get into that in a moment), we must begin by celebrating one of its most exceptional traits: the hospitality of its staff. Every person we encountered during our visit, from the host team to our server to the managers, was warm, genuine, knowledgeable, and clearly committed to making their guests feel comfortable and valued.
Classic Italian dishes, desserts, wines & cocktails
Trattoria Lisina’s beverage menu features a sizable cocktail section largely designed around Italian flavors and influences, with examples like the Lisina Bellini (peach and Prosecco), the Negroni Bianco (gin, Cocchi Americano, Italicus liqueur), and the Espresso Martini (vodka, espresso, Kahlua, Sambuca). They also offer spritzes ranging from the classic Aperol Spritz to the more recently trendy Hugo Spritz, and several of their cocktails have been adapted into zero-proof versions for their Non-Alcoholic Drinks menu. Wine enthusiasts can imbibe glasses and bottles from Trattoria Lisina’s Italian-dominant list (with a few in-house selections from Mandola Winery, of course).
Speaking of Mandola, the team behind Trattoria Lisina also owns Mandola’s Italian in Central Texas, so it’s easy to feel confident about the tastiness and satisfaction of their Italian cooking. We were delighted to be presented with a basket of fresh-baked focaccia upon taking our seat; complimentary bread seems like a rarity these days, but Trattoria Lisina offers an ample serving with flavorful olive oil for dipping. The antipasti selections cover plenty of ground, so guests can easily find something to whet their particular appetites. Fried artichoke fritters with peperoncini aioli and buttery shrimp scampi with an appealing zing of lemon were especially noteworthy.
Trattoria Lisina takes pride in its thin-crust pizzas, and we found the classic thin-crust Margherita an appealing early course. Slightly tangy and well-spiced marinara and fresh mozzarella complemented the crisp crust, and because the pie didn’t feel heavy or overdressed, we were able to thoroughly enjoy it while still saving room for later dishes.
Fans of handmade pasta will discover plenty of choices in Trattoria Lisini’s Primi section. Our server spoke highly of Fettuccine con Proscuitto e Funghi, a dish made with fettuccine noodles and a rich cream sauce studded with prosciutto, mushrooms, and peas and finished with grated Grana Padano cheese. Those wishing to lean into the northern Italian vibes of the space might prefer the Lasagna alla Bolognese, a hearty plate with sheets of fresh egg pasta, meaty Bolognese ragu, and bechamel sauce.
In the Secondi section, diners are quickly reminded that they’re having dinner in the Hill Country by the clear care and consideration given to each meat on the menu. The high point of our meal was the Osso Buco, a slow-braised veal shank so tender that it falls right off the bone bathed in a sauce of white wine and tomato and served on top of indulgent Grana Padano mashed potatoes that easily absorb the savory sauce.
Whether you choose to finish off your meal with an Italian-inspired dessert (the Sfinci, or bite-sized Sicilian doughnuts served with Nutella and cream, are particular specialties) or decide to depart after your main course, you’ll leave the dining room feeling satiated, well-cared-for, and like your drive out to Driftwood was well worth the effort. Make your reservation at trattorialisina.com.