The mission to explore takeout dining during Utah’s COVID-19 restaurant closures and reopenings continues. This week, we dropped by Stoneground Italian Kitchen restaurant in downtown SLC for curbside pickup. The Stoneground dining room and patio are open for safe, socially distant in-house dining if you’d prefer to eat at the restaurant. It’s a good choice, since the ambiance, decor and service at Stoneground is absolutely top-notch.
Unfortunately, our takeout experience was not an entirely smooth one, although through no fault of Stoneground. When we got to 400 South in downtown SLC to pick up our curbside meal, we found the road blocked with SLCPD and National Guard vehicles. We wound up having to park a couple blocks away and walking to the restaurant to get our takeout.
As if things aren’t difficult enough for restaurateurs due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions, the protests, vandalism and such last weekend caused even more problems for downtown businesses. One of them was Stoneground. Due to the curfew implemented last Saturday, owner Bob McCarthy told me he had to close early and lost some 140 covers. That’s lost revenue from 140 would-be customers, lost tips for servers, and food that had to be given away or thrown out. Frankly, that sucks.
On a more positive note, our Stoneground takeout meal was outstanding. Chef Justin Schifflet and his team are producing excellent Italian cuisine, whether for takeout or to eat in. And we love that the takeout containers used by Stoneground are compostable – a nice touch.
Another nice touch is the new online ordering system that owner Bob McCarthy has installed for both Stoneground and his Garage on Beck. I like that each takeout menu item is accompanied by a photo of the actual dish, so customers can see what they’ll be eating before even ordering. Except for the aforementioned National Guard and SLCPD road blockages, the online ordering and curbside pickup process was quick and easy.
I suggest kicking off your Stoneground meal with the terrific Arugula Salad ($12). It’s a very generous serving of fresh arugula topped with shaved Italian beef, crispy fried mushroom slices, thin-sliced shallots, Parmesan cheese, and a tasty white anchovy dressing.
We followed our salad with creamy Tomato Basil Soup ($3.50/cup or $6/bowl) – a luscious soup brimming with ripe red tomato flavor and fresh basil. I wish I’d have ordered extra to enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich the next day.
By the way, Stoneground celebrates a major milestone next week. June 12th is the restaurant’s 20th anniversary. After 20 years of struggling with a difficult above-street location, road closures during the building of the TRAX lines, and more, that is quite an achievement! Let’s just hope Stoneground and other local businesses that are the backbone of our city can survive the pandemic and thrive beyond it. Please support them! Happy anniversary and congratulations to Bob McCarthy and all of the Stoneground gang.
Stoneground cooks up some of the best pizzas in town, including their marvelous Margherita ($15). It’s a perfect wood-oven fired crust topped simply with fresh tasting pomodoro, house-made mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and fresh basil leaves. Other current pizza offerings to take out or eat in include a Bianco pizza, Chicken Pesto, Salumi, Bologna and an interesting Ole Louis with house pork sausage, smoked chili flakes, fried sweet onions and smoked mozzarella.
Pasta at Stoneground is made in-house and is absolutely spot-on – perfect pasta. Choices include House Lasagna, Creste with Bolognese, Black Tagliatelle with lobster meat and Chardonnay-cream sauce, Chicken Parmesan with choice of pasta, Spaghetti & Soppressata Meatballs, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed a light, summery Stoneground pasta dish of Chicken Piccata ($18). A bed of awesome al dente linguine was topped with a large, lightly floured, free-range chicken breast that was as tender as could be, bathed in a lovely lemon-caper-cream sauce and sprinkled with fresh Italian parsley. I was surprised at how well the pasta travelled as takeout. I’d feared the pasta would steam in its container on the way home and get mushy. But nope, it was, as I said, perfect pasta with just the right amount of “bite.”
“I would definitely order this again,” is what my wife said about her Salmon Bowl ($14). I concur. This was a mega salad of fresh organic greens, sliced avocado, pickled fennel, Feta cheese, and purple cabbage. Perched atop the sensational salad was grilled Wild Isles Salmon and alongside that, tangy sherry vinaigrette.
Desserts at Stoneground include Strawberry Panna Cotta ($9) and a Gelato Trio ($9). Obviously, those wouldn’t travel well and aren’t available for takeout. But the Homemade Donuts ($8) are. They are delicious cinnamon and sugar donuts served with vanilla gelato.
Whether you eat in or choose to order takeout, Stoneground Italian Kitchen is killing it. Here’s to the next 20 years of killer cuisine at Stoneground.
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.