To judge from the plate, Italy is taking over Utah. Every time a restaurant closes, an Italian restaurant takes its place.

Yes, I’m exaggerating. Yes, you’ve likely read my complaints about this before. But imagine how dismal it feels, after 35 years of extolling and promoting creative regional cuisine, to be faced with so few new choices: a fast-casual restaurant, an Italian restaurant or a combination of the two. Food should be satisfying. Food should be comforting. Food should never be boring. Authentic Italian cuisine isn’t. But by the time Italian dishes reach Utah kitchens, they have usually been altered to suit the middle of bell curve’s palate and we end up with overcooked lasagne and over-cheesed pasta.

So, when one of the best Greek restaurants in town closed, I was not surprised to see that an Italian restaurant was taking its place: Osteria Amore opened up the interior space beautifully, established a bar area to the right of the entrance and my friends and I didn’t get any further than that. We sat at the bar, ordered a bottle of Italian white and didn’t leave for several hours after consuming antipasti, primi and a secondi and another bottle. It was a great way to dine—and very Italian.

Amore is owned by Marco Cuttai, from Palermo, and Sicilia Mia refugee, Eduardo Daja, and thankfully, he has left a lot of the cheesiness behind. The Sicilia restaurants are friendly and popular and belly-filling, but they verge on the stereotype of heavy, oversauced Italian food that Americans loved in the ‘50s and 60’s.

Sitting at the bar, we ordered items from all over the menu: deep-fried artichoke hearts with shishito peppers, housemade ricotta and toasted bread, fried octopus with potato cream and carpaccio, thin-sliced beef with lots of  arugula and grana cheese. Quibbling, the beef could have been a little thinner, but the unusual addition of pesto and mushrooms brought flavor and texture to the dish. We loved the ravioli with pear, gorgonzola and sage. Carbonara here was made with a good balance of cheese—no fiery show, no tricks, just a lot of style.

For more information about Osteria Amore, click here.

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