Skiing with out-of-town friends at Deer Valley Resort recently presented us with a significant challenge. The challenge didn’t happen on Deer Valley’s pristine ski slopes; it was in garnering a restaurant reservation on a Saturday night. I hadn’t taken spring break and limited seating capacity due to COVID into account and discovered that almost every table in Park City was booked unless we wanted to eat dinner at 5:15 or 9:30.
Thankfully, my friends were staying in a lodge just a few doors down from The Chateaux at Deer Valley and when I called Cena Ristorante & Lounge a helpful host put me on a cancellation list for a table and when a group of guests no-showed, we were in like Flynn.
And lucky we were, because Cena is an outstanding restaurant with top-notch service, ambiance and cuisine. The Chateaux, in which Cena is located, is operated by Stein Eriksen Lodge which means that award-winning Zane Holmquist, Vice President of Food & Beverage and Corporate Chef at Stein’s oversees culinary matters at Cena, too. Cena – which means “dinner” in Italian, is actually open to the public for lunch, apres-ski, and dinner at The Chateaux.
The lunch and apres-ski menu features foods like Wild Boar Chili, a Winter Margherita Pizzetta, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Burger, Caesar Salad, Clams & Linguine, Grilled Vegetable Lasagna, and others. There’s also a full bar and lounge area for informal dining and noshing.
In the evening Cena takes on more of an Italian trattoria feel with an array of Italian dishes like Roasted Chicken Thigh Florentine Pizzetta ($15), Wild Boar Sausage & Mushroom Agnolotti ($28), Seared Branzino with Crispy Polenta ($31), Chicken Parmesan ($28), Lamb Loin with Baked Cannellini Beans ($34), and many other Italian-inspired dishes from Executive Chef Chris Wellmon’s kitchen.
Ever since I was a kid and my parents would stop to eat at Howard Johnson’s during cross country road trips, I’ve loved fried clams. Sadly, I haven’t found fried clams to be a popular thing in landlocked Utah. Cena, however, makes some of the best fried clams I’ve ever come across. It’s a generous serving of plump, crispy clams fried to perfection and served with a spicy yellow tomato sauce and charred lemon ($15). Other antipasti items at Cena include Lamb Sausage & Spinach Gnocchi ($16), Roasted Pear & Prosciutto Crostini ($15), Romanesco Relish Bruschetta ($12), House-Made Mozzarella Cheese (15), and more.
There’s a tempting salad selection at Cena as well, and includes a Ceasar Salad with white anchovies ($12), a Chopped Salad with finocchiona salami and oregano vinaigrette ($14), and a salad of Butterhead Lettuce with Watermelon Radish ($14). We enjoyed a delectable salad of Baby Spinach with Poached Pear slices, gorgonzola cheese, toasted cashews, and parmesan vinaigrette ($14).
Cena also cooks up delicious flatbread-style pizzas called pizzetta which range from an Oyster Mushroom & Baby Beets pizzetta to Italian Sausage with Sweet Peppers and the very popular Creminelli Pepperoni pizzetta, as well as one with Braised Balsamic Lamb Shoulder. All are priced at $15 each.
The wine list at Cena is an award-winning one with a vast array of wines and prices. For example, you could spend as little as $39 for a bottle of Quinta de Gomariz Vinho Verde from Portugal. Or, you could go big and break out a bottle of Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2012 for $650. There’s something for every palate and budget, including a good selection of beers, cocktails, spirits and such.
Being a predominantly Italian eatery, Cena offers a wide selection of pasta options that run the gamut from Spaghetti & Meatballs ($23) and Linguine with Clams ($22), to Caponata & Garganelli ($23), and Lobster & Pancetta Linguine. One can’t-miss pasta item is Veal Bolognese & Tagliatelle. It’s a generous portion of wide, perfectly al dente tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty, rich veal Bolognese sauce with pancetta and shaved manchego cheese.
Entrees (secondi) at Cena tend to be hearty: things like Braised Short Ribs & Saffron Risotto ($31) and Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Broccolini ($38). On the lighter side is a dish that I loved: Cioppino ($30). This was a San Francisco-style seafood stew with a chunky striped bass fillet, calamari, shrimp, and fresh clams. On the side was grilled toast topped with gremolata that was perfect for soaking up the scrumptious tomato-based cioppino broth.
The dolce (dessert) section of the menu has a lot of sweet temptations like Ricotta Cheesecake ($10), Gelato & Sorbetto ($7), and others. But if you really want to go for the gusto I recommend the Cena take on classic Tiramisu ($10), which is espresso-soaked ladyfingers with mascarpone creme and chocolate ganache – just heavenly.
Although ski season is quickly coming to a close, the good news is that Cena Ristorante & Lounge is open all year-round. So, soon you’ll be able to enjoy the stellar cuisine on the sunny patio at Cena, as well as in its beautiful dining rooms and lounge.
Photos by Ted Scheffler & Courtesy of Cena
Culinary quote of the week:
“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.” — George Miller
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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.
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