I am OFFICIALLY a quarter-century old!!! And how did I celebrate this significant birthday? By feasting.
Being in a new city, I was nervous about how this birthday would go.
Being engaged to a guy in medical school also wasn’t making the planning process any easier.
I’ve explored Chicago, making a bucket list of places to try…while also meeting people, making new friends (but a lot of them are in med-school with my fiancé sooo just as busy).
After going back and forth on a few ideas, I came across OSTERIA VIA STATO.
The restaurant’s website sold it to me with this little caption above the menu.
OSTERIA: A casual Italian tavern where people gather to enjoy antipasti with wine, a plate of pasta or Italian feast, all served with the warmth and hospitality of family. Benvenuto.
So with that, my man Dallas and I went out last night and got STUFFED.
This dazzling glass of spumante to the left is what started off my night.
Wanting to go with a lighter drink, Nino Franco’s non-vintage sparkling Rustico Prosecco was a great choice. The golden color was enchanting against the table’s candles. There was also a lovely balance of peach and dough notes that gave a smooth and tight finish, leaving me with a refreshed palate.
When it came to the meal..Dallas and I faced the options of: selecting an appetizer, couple dishes, and a dessert… or getting into some serious eating business with the ITALIAN DINNER PARTY!
Osteria Via Stato’s Italian Dinner Party menu is a great deal – for $40 (price of the meal n’ tax) you get to try a group of appetizers, two pasta dishes, then each person selects their main course and those come with two side dishes. The kicker is you can keep getting “refills” on the appetizers and pasta dishes. Delicious and dangerous. 😉
Our waitress told us it’s a popular choice with groups and could be great for us but maybe overwhelming. I looked up at her and said, “It’s my birthday and I’ll eat if I want to.”
And so it began…
The appetizers were a great mix of proteins, carbs, grains, and veggies. They came out in small portions but since you could ask for more whenever, no worries on that. Below are some of my favs from last night.
Veal Meatballs: had a hearty tomato sauce ladled over them, fresh cheese sprinkled on top, some basil as well. They were bite-sized and melted in my mouth!
Pepperonata and Ricotta Bruschetta: Fried peppers/Pepperonata are an Italian-American staple. The mixture of them with ricotta created a soft creamy and tangy flavor…and the bruschetta had a good crunch to finish it off.
Seasonal Mixed Greens: Sweet and earthy, the salad’s walnuts, dried cherries, parmesan, and walnut vinaigrette provided a cool, fresh addition to the appetizers.
The two pastas we enjoyed were Mezzi Rigatoni with slow-braised duck ragu and Orecchiette with roasted cauliflower and spinach.
The pasta with duck ragu was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Osteria initially. I had seen gnocchi with duck ragu on the menu and instantly craved it. So to have the duck ragu in some way as part of my Italian feast made Sharareh a happy foodie!!
The cauliflower/spinach pasta was a good competitor though for my pasta love with its buttery, creamy finish.
It was hard to save room for these last two but we found a way!
I went for the restaurant’s famed Chicken Mario, inspired by Chef Mario of Sostanza in Florence Italy.
This was one of the BEST chicken dishes I have ever had. When it was placed in front of me, it looked filling and homely. The butter and oils laid upon and around it were intense and usually, I would not be a fan…but it was done so well with this dish.
Squeezing a bit of lemon over the pieces I’d cut out boosted those flavors.
Dallas chose the Braised Niman Ranch Short Rib. It was served over roasted tomatoes and red wine reduction.
His short rib needed nothing but a soft touch of a fork to come apart and was deliciously rich and juicy.
The broccolini and yukon potato puree that came as sides for our main dishes were great pairings!
If we’d had a bit more room, it would have been nice to have some more of the pastas to go with the main dishes.
I’ve always thought of it as a cute tradition for a kitchen or restaurant to create a little something special for those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, and so on…
When it happens to me though, I always react like a little kid, giggling and giddy for my sweets.
And this time I was especially giddy because of what Osteria Via Stato served me — burnt caramel ice cream.
I don’t know WHAT it is with caramel this time of year…but when I was recently in Memphis having an early birthday celebration with my parents at Folk’s Folly, I was served a salted caramel cake.
Burnt, salted, just plain…caramel is one of my favorite sweets but I often don’t get it or ask for it. It’s a happy surprise when it does come along for me.
Perhaps its a sign of sweet surprises to come for this 25-year-old foodie, living and loving my new experiences in Chicago…and elsewhere in the world.