Despite living a few blocks from Osteria for two years (and routinely returning to the area since moving), and always on a personal quest for really good Italian food and willing to try just about anything, I’ve never made it to Osteria. There’s no good answer as to why. I’ve never heard anything negative about the tiny restaurant, or for the matter, raves. I suppose I’ve always been curious. Even though I’ve literally walked past Osteria as it sits quietly below street level hundreds of times, I’ve never made it in until this past weekend on behalf of Metromix.
As I’ve said before, I’m a ridiculously hard critic of Italian food. I’m not a chef and I’ve never spent a day in Italy (sigh). But I’m 100% Italian (actually, half Sicilian/half Italian) and I have a grandma and mom that know their way around a kitchen and made daily scratch Italian dishes for as long as I can remember and beat this notion of authenticity into us on a daily basis. Anyone who grew up like this and never knew you could actually buy marinara sauce, gets to play critic.
For me, the best Italian I’ve had so far is at Michalangelo’s(though I still miss Battuto). But that’s not to say others don’t offer great dishes: bucatini all’ amatriciana @ Baricelli; Rocco’s famous little meatballs, among others)
And now, I’d add Osteria to the list. Was it the most amazing Italian food I’ve had? No. But it was good, surprisingly good – especially the marinara sauce that accompanied the mussels. I used the hot, crusty bread to soak up as much as I could. Very good sauce. And my osso buco was enjoyable, too. Perhaps not as tender as I would have hoped for, but a good dish nonetheless. And the pastas we sampled – quite satisfying, albeit not waist friendly (just too bad the pastas aren’t made in-house – all pasta comes from Gallucci’s, which kinda seems like cheating).
The other drawback for me was the space itself. While I really liked the overall vibe – borderline cool sitting below St. Clair and the overall intimate/cozy feeling inside (great for a date night), the space itself needs a good freshening up. Not a major overhaul, but a few updates would go a long way.
You can read the full review here. In short, I liked it and wish I made it in sooner. I can definitely see us heading back soon, especially on a cold, snowy night (which will be here before we know it). In fact, I think on our next visit I’m going to bypass the menu and let the chef put together a tasting for us. As our server shared as soon as we sat down, they are here to feed you. If you’ll let them, they will make an adventure out of it and put together a tasting for you based on what you’re craving and how hungry you are. Word of advice – go hungry. In fact, I left there feeling the same way I used to after a dinner at my grandma’s house where her only purpose in life was to feed you. Those are the meals when it was nice to wear maternity pants.