Yes, love is in the air this week. But this is not another article about where to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I covered that in last week’s Utah Bites. Rather, this week I’m turning to a new restaurant that I’m really loving: Osteria Amore.
In Italy, an osteria was traditionally an eatery serving simple, uncomplicated food and wine. Think of it as an Italian version of a bistro. These days, many osterias serve pizza along with grilled foods and pastas, but they’re typically informal places to dine. Such is the case with Osteria Amore. It’s a loud, often full, bistro-style eatery in the space that was formerly home to Aristo’s. And, although the restaurant has only been open since October, a love affair has blossomed between Osteria Amore and many SLC foodies. I’m one of them.
It’s the creation of business partners Eduardo Daja – who is from Bologna and manages the restaurant – and Chef Marco Cuttaia, who tends to the kitchen duties. Together, they’ve created a restaurant that should be at the top of any Italian food lover’s must-visit list.
The space itself is beautiful; warm and inviting but also contemporary and modern. Black and white photographs adorn the walls, while wood tables and chairs and a Mediterranean color palette soften the ambiance. While maybe not the best choice for a quiet, romantic meal, this is the kind of place that encourages leaning toward your neighbor’s table and asking, “Is that the branzino you ordered? How is it?”
Diners at Osteria Amore are treated to freshly baked slices of toasted bread with housemade ricotta, a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper and tiny grape tomatoes – a nice touch to begin a meal.
Antipasti options include delights such as grilled octopus with potato cream and sweet cherry tomatoes ($18); Sicilian-style arancine (rice balls $8); and Carciofini Fritti ($10): deep-fried artichokes with shishito peppers and aioli lemon. An excellent appetizer to share is Carpaccio di Manzo ($14), which is very thinly shaved raw beef topped with sliced mushrooms, grana padano cheese, arugula, and basil pesto. We would have loved the carpaccio even more had someone in the kitchen not been so heavy-handed with salt. The grana padano and basil pesto are already salty, so hitting the carpaccio with an additional sprinkling of salt was overkill.
I really liked my wife’s Caesar salad ($9) when I tried it, although she felt it was a tad underdressed. It definitely wasn’t swimming in salad dressing, but I like just a smidgeon of dressing on my salad. It was a classic Caesar with romaine lettuce, house-made croutons, anchovies, flakes of grana padano and, as mentioned, a light drizzle of dressing. If you enjoy your salad more smothered, simply ask for extra dressing. The staff at Osteria Amore is very accomodating.
Additional salad choices include a Mediterranean salad ($10) with lettuce, Feta cheese, Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives and cucumber; one called Bulággna ($12) with romaine, arugula, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, “half-cooked raw ham,” and balsamic vinegar; and the Amore salad – a mixed green salad served in a pizza bowl, topped with bresaola and a citronette dressing ($18).
Osteria Amore will please wine lovers with its well-selected list of mostly Italian wines. It ranges from Veneto (Scaia Bianco) and Umbria (Tellus Chardonnay), to Trentino (Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio), Slovenia (Zampato Sauvignon Blanc), Piedmont (Traversa Barbaresco), and Tuscany (Nozzole Chianti Riserva), to name a few. For beer, there’s Franziskaner Heffe-Weisse from Germany and Italian Peroni, as well as Limoncello and Amaro to sip. We settled upon a bottle of Terredora Greco di Tufo Loggia della Serra ($58/bottle), from Campania, which was very versatile and delightful throughout our meal.
The Osteria Amore menu is organized in classic Italian style, which may confuse some American diners who, for example, are accustomed to ordering pasta in an Italian restaurant as an entree. That’s something that’s not typical in Italy. For what it’s worth, I ordered a pasta dish for my main course and didn’t seem to offend anyone. Crazy Americans.
The menu opens with Taglieri – selections of meats and cheeses that many of us know as charcuterie, followed by Antipasti. Then comes soups and salads – Insalate and Zuppe, including a seafood Zuppa di Mare. That’s followed by Primi – those are the pasta dishes, and Secondi – meat, poultry and fish. There’s also a Pizze (pizza) selection and then finally, desserts.
Chef Cuttaia, who hails from Palermo, uses fresh organic local eggs and caputo 00 flour in his pastas. Pasta choices include Tagliatelle Bolognese ($16), Lasagne Verdi ($18), Gnocchi alla Sorrentina ($18), Noci e Gorgonzola ($15), and an interesting ravioli with cestini ravioli, pear, gorgonzola, butter and sage ($21).
There’s also a seafood pasta dish called Sapori di Mare ($22) with spaghetti, clams, shrimp, mussels, cherry tomatoes, and a light wine tomato sauce. I can never resist decadent pasta Carbonara, which in this case was homemade rigatoni pasta tossed in a scrumptious sauce of guanciale, egg yolks, pecorino Romano cheese and minced parsley ($18). The pasta was perfectly al dente and the rich, silky sauce, divine – all served in the pan in which it was cooked. Next time, I’m looking forward to trying Nero di Seppia: spaghetti with squid ink, shrimp and calamari ($20).
My wife thoroughly enjoyed her Secondi dish – which was a special of the evening – branzino served with fingerling potatoes and fresh veggies. I thought it was a nice touch for our server to ask if she wanted the branzino deboned and filleted, or whole. She chose to have the kitchen debone the fish.
Regular Secondi menu items include grilled salmon ($28); filet mignon with aromatized butter and roasted fennel ($32); Angus ribeye steak with Barolo-sauteed mushrooms ($30); piccata-style chicken breast with capers in butter-lemon sauce ($19); and Veal Saltimbocca alla Romana: veal with prosciutto crudo, sage, butter and spinach ($26).
I must say that the service at Osteria Amore was impressive. The staff is very well-informed, polite, friendly and professional. And, Eduardo Daja patrols the premises continually, making sure everything is just so and checking in with customers, most of whom he seems to know from previous visits. From the moment you enter the restaurant to when you exit, you are made to feel warm and welcome. Osteria Amore has rapidly garnered a loyal clientele.
The wood oven pizzas at Osteria Amore are as good as any I’ve had in Utah. They are made by Chef Cuttaia’s father. The crusts are absolute perfection. There are a dozen pizzas on the regular menu, running the gamut from a simple Margherita-style Regina pizza with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil ($14), to more complex choices such as the Dolomiti ($28). That one has mozzarella, ricotta, smoked salmon, San Marzanos, Brie, and prosciutto di Parma. Veggie lovers might enjoy the Capricciosa pizza with San Marzano sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes and black olives ($16).
I can rarely resist spicy food options and so I ordered the Diavola pizza ($15), which was delicious. It’s essentially a Margherita pizza with the addition of spicy salami and spicy oil. I loved it. But I think my favorite Osteria Amore pizza is one called Etna ($28). It’s a hearty pizza topped with San Marzano sauce, spicy salami, house-made Italian sausage, garlic, onion, mushrooms, ham and burrata. It’s a perfect pizza.
And finally, I urge you not to depart Osteria Amore until you’ve tried their gelato. OMG, it’s fantastic! As stuffed as we were at the end of dinner, I couldn’t help but to lick clean our dish of heavenly pistachio gelato. I’ve literally never tasted better gelato, anywhere.
If you haven’t yet visited Osteria Amore, you’re in for a real treat. If you have, then you already know what the throngs of repeat customers already know: There’s a new, legit Italian restaurant in town, and that’s Amore.
Culinary quote of the week:
“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” — Federico Fellini
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.