First Bite: Fireside on Regent

Pi, that mysterious irrational number was known to the ancients 4,000-some years ago.
Well, “known” might be overstating it. Because who really knows pi? Let’s say the ancients were acquainted with it.

Pi Day, as in March 14 (3.14), was first celebrated at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988. It was this guy’s idea. No profiling, please.

The U.S. House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day in 2009—back in the day when Congress still believed scientists.

But in this post-factual world, Pi Day has devolved into an excuse to market pizza. So I’m celebrating the easy way because my theory is that there are as many permutations of pizza as there are numbers in pi.

A few weeks ago, after a plumbing problem delay, Chef Mike Richey (WHISKEY!) opened Fireside on Regent, and, now, it’s a contender for the best in town.
The tiny restaurant, just a long marble counter, some tables and a gorgeous tiled pizza oven is the first to open on Regent Street, which we’re hoping will grow into a new SLC restaurant row, feeding the patrons of the Eccles Theater that opened late last year.

So far, I’ve been to Fireside four times and have yet to attend an event at the Eccles. Just sayin’.

Mike Richey‘s been cooking around Utah for quite awhile—he was one of the opening chefs at Pago where he set the standard for that groundbreaking restaurant and, by the way, made his caviar pillows famous. The same pillows are on the menu at Fireside—little golden potato puffs topped with scoops of caviar, served as unpretentiously as pickled eggs from a jar. Once again, the gorgeous mouthfuls sum up Richey’s food attitude: This is fine dining that feels like a neighborhood bar.
One section of the menu is called “Urban Picnic” and lists smallish sharing plates of dishes—thin-petalled squash blossoms filled with house made ricotta and fried, brightened with pepper and Meyer lemon. Moules frites, avocado bruschetta and Moroccan-flavored lamb pops, for example.

The artful Caesar comes with anchovy filets on top; the Sicilian salad was a vivid fusion of shaved fennel, orange segments, sea salt and lemon juice. The kitchen’s forte is intense, memorable flavors that shout wow in the mouth. Pastas are made in-house, and range from the robust bucatini sauced with a rabbit-white wine braise to the delicate ravioli with roasted chicken and ricotta in a brothy sauce.
And the pizzas? In the tile-covered wood-fired Valoriani oven, the crust bubbles to an authentic bare char that joyfully marries the topping and convinces you that this is what pizza really means. And if you think I’m exaggerating, go have some. We especially love the chip-topped “Evergreen” pie which a well-known local chef described enthusiastically as a “stoner’s dream.” I guess I could have misunderstood him.

Fireside, you’ll be happy to hear, is on the west side of Regent street—that’s the side that can get liquor licenses. (Funny how no one’s opened a restaurant on the other side of the street.) So one of my visits to Fireside was for a tasting of Bucklin wines, with the marvelous Bucklin brothers live and in person, discussing the works of Frank Zappa and Wendell Berry as well as their field-blend wines fanatically made according to Will Bucklin’s Bible of Sonoma Dry Farming (not a real book, but a heartfelt philosophy.)

The wine that lingers in my mind, of course, is the dreamy Bucklin rose—a sure sign of spring for me. And Pi Day confirms it—spring is just around the corner.

Fireside, 126 S. Regent Street, SLC, 801-359-4011

Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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