12 luscious landings for those special occasions
We’ve all felt that wave of panic upon learning a second cousin is coming to town with her husband and six kids. Or when our boss asks us to take a very important client out on the town. Where do we go? How do we make them feel welcome? What eateries are we most proud of, and which do we show off?
Even with social media and restaurant websites at our fingertips, we can still be stumped when we need inspiration for a special occasion. While each of our individual lists of favorites might go on for pages, this is the Devour Dozen, and we’re limited to just 12. As such, we know we’re only scratching the surface.
Let us just say the eateries that follow grace us with their presence. They bring flavors and a dining experience to the 801 that we would not otherwise have. Their approach to food—from preparation and drink pairings to service and ambiance—converge to create a distinctive dining experience. Yes, it’s possible you could find a hair in your soup (we’re all human, even those who serve you food). But for now, let’s give these 12 their due as outstanding eateries that know how to put on a delicious feast. (And if we missed your favorite destination, please let us know on our social media!)
The American Feast
Dishes with global influences
Provisions chef Tyler Stokes knows that in the multicultural melting pot of the United States, “American” food is much more than cheeseburgers and fries.
“It’s like how chef David Chang says that Momofuku is actually an American restaurant,” Stokes says, referring to the celebrity chef behind the Momofuku restaurant empire that serves everything from Southern fried chicken to smoked pork ramen.
Provisions, with influences from across the globe, is an upscale eatery nestled in East Millcreek, inspired by the seasons and serving a selection of small and large plates.
Share caramelized wild shrimp and grits (cooked with scallion, red onion, ginger, garlic and chili with a slow-cooked poached egg on top), dip a rice cracker into wagyu beef carpaccio with yuzu koshu aioli, truffle oil, arugula and katsobushi (dried fermented fish flakes), or dive into hamachi sashimi topped with coconut milk, lime juice, Thai basil, fresno chili and puffed rice.
Housemade pappardelle (with braised rabbit, speck, sage-brown butter sauce and reggiano) and fried chicken (smothered in sticky sauce and herbs and served alongside green papaya salad and Thai coconut-ginger rice) are just some of the decadent large plates found on the restaurant’s ever-evolving menu.
“I want the food to be comforting, beautiful, appear simple, but first and foremost, be delicious,” says Stokes, who has also created a feast for the eyes in the light-filled restaurant with dreamy red and white floral wallpaper.
For the ultimate feast at Provisions, Stokes recommends kicking off the meal with a charcuterie and cheese board made from cured meat and farmstead cheese that change daily and are served alongside pickles and grilled bread.
“When our regulars come in, they really do know how to feast,” says Stokes. “We recommend two to three small plates for a table to share, then go into a couple of the seasonal specials before trying a couple of large plates. And you should always end with dessert.”
Provisions is known for unique creations like spice beignets with orange creme anglaise and a passionfruit and black pepper ice cream sandwich. Housemade sorbets and ice creams are spun daily based on what’s in season.
And don’t forget the wine: “We have a couple hundred bottles that we’ve sourced from all over, but we predominantly try to focus on domestic wine from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and New Mexico,” adds Stokes.
As summer turns to fall and harvest is at its peak, it’s the ideal time to plan a multicourse (and multicultural) meal at Provisions.
“It’s one of my favorite times of year,” Stokes says. (Claire McArthur)
3364 S. 2300 East, SLC
A storybook setting for any special occasion
Located within the picturesque ambience of a 23-acre pastoral countryside surrounding a turreted stone French-country chateau, La Caille offers a classy getaway for elegant feasting. Layne Dansie, general manager, says that dinner begins with an amuse-bouche, a single-bite hors d’oeuvre to awaken the palate, prepare the guest for the meal and offer a glimpse of the chef’s style. The appetizer “may or may not be similar to a future entrée,” Dansie says. “These flavorful little tastes allow the chef to see guests’ reactions to his fun creations.”
On his European travels, Dansie came to appreciate the next pre-entrée offering, the charcuterie board. La Caille’s version contains samplings of both local and French cheeses, meats and homemade crostini and chutneys, along with a local pickled mustard-seed honey. Filled with variety, it’s a fun appetizer to share, Dansie says.
He suggests following this delectable beginning with the roasted beet salad. The earthy beets are topped with brûléed goat cheese and accompanied by arugula and other selected greens grown in the La Caille gardens. It’s drizzled with a lemon olive-oil vinaigrette sea salt dressing.
To cleanse the palate prior to the entrée, diners are treated to sorbet, often made from raspberries grown in La Caille’s gardens.
For a main dish, Dansie recommends the canard à l’orange risotto, “our beautiful Peking duck entrée, which includes a seared duck breast and duck leg confit, served over a locally foraged mushroom risotto. A champagne mandarin orange gastrique complements the flavor of the duck and is accompanied by candied orange peel, “to add to the dish or not, as you wish,” Dansie says.
For dessert, he suggests the flourless chocolate cake, topped with a raspberry coulis pressed from La Caille’s own raspberries. Dansie notes this dessert “is highly flavorful and is almost a brownie—not a cake.”
La Caille’s classic bananas Foster, with a tableside presentation, is another dessert choice. The delightful blend of dark rum and homemade caramel enhances the flavor of the bananas, which are served over ice cream.
After dessert, the finale includes a mignardise—a one-bite pastry—“with a bit of a wow factor, an explosion of taste from the pastry chef,” Dansie says.
This year, La Caille became an estate winery. “We grow our grapes, then pick, process and bottle them to create our Chateau La Caille wine,” Dansie says. La Caille released its second wine, a chateau rose, in July. In late summer 2019, they expect to release a red wine.
“It is now possible to have a full-blown wine tasting and wine pairing using only the La Caille brand,” Dansie notes.
“The ability to grow our own ingredients makes it always worth the effort to come up with new ideas,” he says. (Carolyn Campbell)
9565 S. Wasatch Blvd., Sandy
A family food celebration in Ogden
Sonora Grill’s owner, Steven Ballard, believes in made-from-scratch food that celebrates regional Mexican cuisine. Sonora makes its food in small batches using whole ingredients with Ballard putting his own twist on each menu item. Intertwining good food with a modern, open and warmly welcoming interior, there’s the makings of a memorable experience. It’s not unusual to walk in any day of the week to see large pre-set tables ready for a family feast, but two or a few can gather and dine just as extravagantly.
Once seated, your server delivers a basket of whole, made-in-house corn tortilla chips that you can break apart yourself. This is one large basket of chips! Two salsas complement the chips: green tomatillo and smoky red salsa. For those who like it hot, there’s a habanero salsa by request.
If Ballard were to arrange a feast, he would suggest the following dishes
Tableside queso fundido: melted cheese, salsa, and chorizo—perfect for more chips! The sizzling display captures attention. Perfectly paired with one of several house margaritas or a glass of wine or local beer gets supper started.
Elotes (Mexican street corn by request): This item is truly delicious, rolled in crema and sprinkled with cheese and spices with cabbage salad on the side. Watch the delightful faces of your tablemates as they try to stay clean.
Shrimp chile relleno: The combination of the chilies, creamy enchilada sauce, black beans and coconut almond rice is a signature dish that customers return for again and again.
Mocha cheesecake: This dessert is not overly sweet, nor is it overly tangy. It’s the perfect finish to your feast with lots of mocha and a hint of sweet. Regardless of how you feel about cheesecake, try at least one flavorful bite.
Add agua fresca or a Sonora margarita to this feast and you’ve got a memorable gathering that is kind to your pocketbook.
One of the best things about Sonora is the service, where they provide just enough attention while giving privacy and time to enjoy your meal. Oh, and parents will be glad to know there’s a kids’ menu.
When asked what separates Sonora Grill from the others, Ballard says, “A good example is our cheese. Instead of buying generic cheeses like American or cheddar cheese that can be mixed with oil, we buy authentic cheeses including Oaxaca, asadero, manchego, panela, queso fresco and cotija.” One of the things that Ballard enjoys the most is looking for inspiration for new dishes. “We travel to Mexico at least once a year to learn more about Mexican cuisine,” he says. (Rebecca Ory Hernandez)
2310 S. Kiesel Ave., Ogden
Under the Tuscan Sun
Classy, robust fare paired with superb vintages
Tuscany resembles a fairy-tale hunting lodge, bordered by majestic cottonwood and evergreen trees. This classy and cozy dining establishment is surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant colorful flowers. Inside, Tuscany brings to mind a chalet in the northern Italian Alps, complete with stained glass windows and a handmade 500-bottle wine cabinet. This stunning, one-off restaurant offers the perfect pastoral ambiance for a sumptuous feast. Tuscany’s culinary staff prides itself on using fresh local ingredients to create a widespread menu that encompasses both traditional and Americanized Italian dishes. Tuscany’s fare is also a visual feast, “because you eat first with your eyes,” says Tuscany executive chef Adam Vickers.
Shawn Boyle, Tuscany’s general manager, suggests starting off with an appetizer of beer-battered fried calamari, which has a light, crisp breading and is accompanied by a red pepper aioli. This appetizer, like most Tuscany dishes, “is large enough to share, so that you can pass it around the table in the Italian family-style tradition,” Boyle says. He then recommends the pear salad, featuring delicate greens, including arugula, radicchio and endive along with pine nuts and a julienned D’Anjou pear sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese. The salad dressing is a champagne vinaigrette. “This light, airy salad complements the other courses,” adds Boyle.
The maple-molasses brined double-thick pork chops have been a signature Tuscany entrée since its inception. “They are marinated for 48 hours in a brine of molasses and bay leaves accompanied by a sachet of aromatics, then served with scallion whipped potatoes and a Marsala reduction sauce,” Boyle says. Another main course possibility is lasagna baked in Tuscany’s wood ovens. The lasagna’s flavor and texture are enhanced by fennel sausage, béchamel sauce, spinach, pomodoro and a meat sauce. This zesty entrée is finished with Parmesan cheese.
Boyle suggests pairing the salad and main courses with a dry Riesling, a pinot noir or one of their Piedmont wines. Along with Boyle’s suggested pairings, diners can also choose from Tuscany’s 600-bottle award-winning wine list.
Boyle’s suggested dessert choice, also popular since Tuscany first opened, is the signature banana cream pie baked in a housemade coconut tart shell. Topping the tart shell is flavorful pastry cream with artfully angled brûléed bananas and freshly whipped cream. Boyle suggests pairing this dessert selection with a glass of champagne or moscato. Another suggested feast finale is Tuscany’s famous “Mark Eaton” chocolate cake, a tall three-layer cake in which the layers are separated by chocolate ganache. Both the highest cake layer and the vanilla bean gelato that adorns it are also topped with chocolate sauce. Boyle suggests pairing the delectable cake with Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port. (Carolyn Campbell)
2832 E. 6200 South
Share the Dip
It’s all about coming together to savor Middle Eastern fare
Moudi Sbeity and his husband, Derek Kitchen, have worked hard to create a community hub at Laziz Kitchen where anyone and everyone will feel comfortable gathering and sharing a meal. And when Sbeity mentions sharing a meal, he means just that. Often, he says, a large group will come into the restaurant and order a variety of appetizers.
When the dishes are served, the diners spoon a portion onto small plates—a little dip of hummus here and a stuffed grape leaf or two there, each eating from individual plates. And, being from Lebanon, Sbeity says this practice seems odd to him.
“In Lebanon,” he says, “You would just dip into whatever plate the dip was served on. And other things you can eat with your hands. [Dining] is more casual and comfortable there.”
For those really special celebrations, and the small ones, too, here’s Sbeity’s menu of festive, sharable dishes at Laziz.
To start, try an Arabic coffee, and if you desire a more spirited substance, go for one of their Lebanese beers or wines.
Next are appetizers. Sbeity’s favorites are all extremely sharable, including the homemade baba ghannouj, a fire-roasted eggplant dip with tahini, lemon and garlic, or the feta dip that’s cheesy with a spicy zing. Order a few dips, grab some pita and dig in.
Another “can’t miss” item on the menu is the grilled halloumi cheese that comes with its own dip. If you simply can’t decide, order the sampler dip plate or the mezze appetizer platter for multiple flavors and textures.
For the main course, Sbeity suggests a favorite at many traditional Lebanese feasts: chicken and/or kafta beef skewers (aka Lebanese beef kabobs), accompanied by rice as well as Laziz’s silky hummus and freshly based pita bread. And you should know that when and where possible, Laziz uses locally sourced quality meats, such as ground beef and steaks from Niman Ranch.
For the final flourish, Laziz offers a variety of ice cream, as well as baklava, pudding and cake. So, order a selection for the table and continue the theme of sharing by letting your dinner guests taste bite by bite. Sit back, enjoy the people you’re with, breathe in the aromas and spices of Lebanon and share some dip. (Anna Kaser)
912 S. Jefferson St., SLC
Experience the chef’s tasting menu for the ultimate feast
In a former egg sorting facility built in 1929, three chefs (and good friends) have created a modern dining experience that you are not likely to find anywhere else in northern Utah.
Tucked away in the neighborhood of Millcreek, Table X is a collaboration between chefs Michael Blocher, Nick Fahs and David Barboza—cooking school buddies-turned-business partners who, after years of working for other peoples’ restaurants on the East Coast, were ready to cook what they wanted to cook.
The result is a modern American cuisine with a focus on quality products, including produce grown in their on-site, 13-bed French potager garden. Different varieties of fresh bread are made daily, butter is churned and cultured in house, fresh homegrown herbs are hung out to dry in the open kitchen, and there’s always something pickling or fermenting.
Table X started out as a series of pop-up dining events featuring a multi-course meal and wine pairings, but eventually, the trio realized it was time to find a permanent home.
“The idea behind Table X was that it was this different experience and experimental in a way,” says Fahs, a Salt Lake City native. “The other part was that most restaurants have a table one or table zero, the chef’s table, so when we were branding the restaurant, we decided to make everything open and sort of make it so that every table is like a chef’s table.”
To truly experience the collective creativity of Table X, indulge in the five-course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($55) and artfully selected wine pairings ($20). After an amuse-bouche and freshly baked bread, diners dive into two appetizers before a fish course. Next is an entree centered around beef, lamb or pork followed by a seasonal dessert.
While this may sound like a vague outline of a meal, given the chefs’ ever-evolving culinary whimsies, you never know what you might find on the seasonally inspired menu. After just three years in business, Table X is nearing the hundredth iteration of its menu—so it’s sure to be a new and innovative experience with each visit.
For the ultimate feast, book the private dining room overlooking the garden to enjoy the tasting menu with 14 of your food-loving friends. (Claire McArthur)
1457 E. 3350 South, SLC
Up the Ante
Indulge your senses with inspired Asian fare
Fine dining, meet Asian fusion. She lives in Park City, and her name is Wahso. One of Bill White’s most long-lived eateries, Wahso has
remained a local foodie favorite for nearly two decades. Tuck yourself into an intimate booth behind a velvet curtain and begin your discovery of tantalizing appetizers, innovative main courses and scrumptious desserts.
With its vintage 1930s Shanghai interiors, Asian sculptures, table lamps, artifacts and art, Wahso’s interior is a blend of romantic sophistication that complements the fusion cuisine overseen by executive chef Rafael Zamora.
Wahso uses locally sourced foods as much as possible, even growing its own microgreens and meats at the nonprofit Bill White Farms. Corporate executive chef Matt McMillen and his team collaborate to tweak traditional Asian favorites. Inventive they may be, but each twist is designed for broad appeal. “We want foreign foods to be approachable and not too niche,” he says.
So how would Devour readers experience a feast at Wahso?
Chef McMillen suggests beginning the tour of Asian flavors with the Korean pear romaine salad. Korean pears, known for their crunchy texture and subtle sweet juice, balance the rich, crispy pork belly dressed in a sudachi citronette.
Another starter not to miss: the tombo sashimi, which is seared albacore tuna dressed to the nines with ponzu onions, garlic chili sauce and farm herbs.
Alternatively, wine aficionados might wish to pair this shellfish ramen with Atrea’s The Choir, a full-bodied white wine from Mendocino, Calif. Its balance of high acidity to the floral jasmine and melon notes serves as a palate cleanser between bites.
No visit to Wahso is complete with ordering the famous lobster + crab ramen. The secret to this striking dish is the black-bean crustacean sauce in the broth. “Meeting the consumer halfway yet expressing what our chefs wanted resulted in this delicious [lobster and crab ramen] dish,” Chef McMillen says, while highlighting the nontraditional Asian ingredients that fill the bowl, including Chinese sausage and wood ear mushrooms.
Savory swirls of umami broth make a guest thirsty, and Mike Brown, Wahso’s beverage manager, can ably supply the needed guidance when it comes to pairing the dishes with the perfect beverage. For this world feast, Mantensei’s Star Filled Sky sake is recommended. The unique junmai gingo grade sake is delicious when chilled, and we’re told it gives a clean, dry finish to the umami flavor.
To finish off our journey, we mark the occasion with the delectable sweet potato cake with hazelnut praline ice cream, churned at Windy Ridge Bakery, a Bill White sister property. This gluten-free cake is reflective of Wahso’s desire to accommodate dietary restrictions, including allergies, low-fat and vegan. (Cait Lee and Mika Lee)
577 Main St., Park City
Fast, then Feast
To really appreciate food, abstain from eating for a day
Feast days and fasting are often tied to faith. Christians, Muslims and Jews—to name but a few religions—often show devotion and sacrifice by abstaining from certain foods or even fasting from all food and even water for a prescribed period of time.
In October, Jews fast in observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year. In 2019, the Day of Atonement begins before sundown on Oct. 8 and ends at night fall on Oct. 9. During these 25 hours, Jews refrain from working, eating, drinking as well as other physical pleasures, and, instead, spend time praying and reflecting. “It is a day to think about what has gone wrong and what has gone right over the past year,” says Michael Feldman, owner of Feldman’s Deli.
These days, though, Feldman admits it is harder for him to fast for the entire duration, now that he is surrounded by food at his restaurant all day. He still takes the time to commit himself to being a good person and doing what is right at Yom Kippur each year.
The day before the fast begins, families might eat a lunch that includes meat, such as breaded chicken and potatoes, then perhaps a dinner of a meatless soup or a high-carb dairy dinner. “People tend to eat lighter,” says Feldman of the last meal before the fast, noting that some will eat chopped liver, bagels and a spread.
As for breaking the fast, Feldman says it’s a good idea to continue to eat light. “Once your stomach has shrunken,” he says, “it is hard to eat a lot.” At Feldman’s Deli, a joyful Break the Fast Platter can be shared with family and friends for this very occasion.
The platter includes bagels with six different spreads such as egg salad, tuna, chicken salad, liver, hummus and more. The combination of light, protein-packed food is the perfect way to begin the year spiritually and physically renewed. To non-Jews, the Break the Fast Platter may seem like a breakfast meal, but since Yom Kippur ends in the evening, family and friends typically enjoy breakfast fare, including quiches, noodle kugels and coffee cake.
For those who wish to break their fast with something sweet, Feldman’s offers traditional rugelach, crescent-shaped filled pastries or hamantash, a cookie-like pastry in the shape of a triangle often filled with a fruit filling. (Anna Kaser)
2005 E. 2700 South, SLC
Happy, healthy food in Holladay
After launching three traditional Thai restaurants, entrepreneur Anny Sooksri decided her next venture would feature her favorite foods, some of which are a fusion of Thai and other bold flavors. That’s how she came to name her eatery Fav Bistro, as each dish is one of her “faves.” When asked if her fusion fare is still authentically Thai food, she answers, “We prepare foods that taste like home,” noting that each dish can be prepared to reflect unique regional flavors and styles of cooking.
“We use the freshest ingredients, down to the water we filter in house. We never use MSG in our dishes,” Sooksri stresses. The bistro prides itself on making each dish to order. “You can taste the difference in the quality when it’s prepared fresh,” she says, “and it’s worth waiting the few extra minutes.”
Her ultimate Thai feast would begin with a green papaya salad with turmeric Thai-seasoned grilled chicken, a dish so large, it easily feeds a party of four. A popular Thai street food, the green tossed salad is refreshing, crisp and light— perfectly at home on the restaurant menu, served with toasted coconut garlic rice.
Her tom kar chicken soup in young coconut is easily the most flavorful (and our favorite) soup on the menu. Beautifully presented in a coconut, ample enough to serve multiple guests, this tangy, sweet and creamy coconut milk soup will leave you wishing you’d ordered it all for yourself.
The eggplant stir fry shines as the beacon of this feast, and only those in-the-know are aware of this tender, crunchy dish (it’s not on the fixed menu. Ask your server). Thin sliced eggplant is lightly battered and deep fried, with your choice of chicken, pork, tofu, shrimp or fish (we recommend the fish). The ingredients are stir-fried with sliced bamboo tips, bell pepper, carrots, baby corn and basil and drizzled in a special house sauce.
Consider pairing this feast with Fav Bistro’s house-brewed kombucha. “The eggplant goes well with our kombucha on tap,” Sooksri says, and it gives the dish a probiotic kick. Fav Bistro is a probiotic-positive environment, making its own kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha for more than four years. “We learn from our [family] experiences of the benefits of probiotics and we help others with what we’ve learned,” Sooksri says.
The closing showstopper is the mango sticky rice. Fav Bistro’s variation? Pandan leaf gives the rice a pop of color and flavor, complementing the sweetness of the mango.
Sooksri says these dishes mesh well together because they provide “a nice balance of all the flavors Thai food has to offer.” The large portions promote the sharing of dishes and flavors, something that is important in Thailand culture. Fav Bistro has variations to meet all dietary needs.
Keep an eye on Anny Sooksri. She’s got yet another eatery in the works, the Noodle Run, which will be located on 6000 South and State Street. (Cait Lee and Mika Lee)
1984 E. Murray Holladay Road, Holladay
It’s Show Time
Making the scene at a downtown original
If a Broadway show brings you to the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, or if it’s your anniversary, or you need to wine and dine a business colleague, or just because you’re craving great food and top-notch service at a one-of-a-kind eatery with an lively exhibition kitchen, you best make a reservation at Bambara. For two decades now, Hotel Monaco has housed this smart restaurant that’s within walking distance to bars, concert venues, malls, convention centers and theaters. The bright, quirky decor will entertain your party while the kitchen whips up some of the tastiest and often the most unexpected food offerings.
For Act I, follow executive chef Nathan Powers’ imagination. His feast-worthy appetizers range from crunchy blue-cheese potato chips to rather rare delicacies. “When I think of feasts,” he says, “I think of special occasions. The most special occasions for me include caviar.” He scoops up a heaping spoonful of hackleback sturgeon caviar and places it atop a baked and seasoned marble potato, then adds a dollop of crème fraîche and a pinch of finely diced fresh chives.
Chef Nathan suggests pairing his potato caviar bites with vodka, namely Absolut Elyx, served neat, and frozen, so as not to overpower the delicate, briny caviar. This winter-wheat vodka helps balance the caviar’s bitterness with a buttery fresh-bread richness. Bambara’s potato caviar bites will be offered for a limited time only to assist in sustainability efforts of the caviar industry.
Act II highlights the bounty of the fall hunt. Chef Nathan grills up a tender cut of elk, one of the largest game animals in North America. This juicy elk loin sits atop corn risotto and Luxardo cherry barbecue sauce and is served with seasonal harvest veggies such as wilted baby kale and tempura asparagus. Grilled loin of elk will be featured on the fall/winter menus at Bambara.
Act III allows diners to play with textures and richness of the ever-popular cheese board, featuring an English Stilton blue cheese (while supplies last) and Point Reyes blue cheese with Utah’s own Slide Ridge honey. The 2-year aged blue English Stilton has an ethereal richness, is salty and nutty, yet creamy. Alternatively, the much younger 2-month old Point Reyes blue has a subtle sweetness with a strong blue flavor. “Honey mellows out the pungent flavor of blue cheese,” Chef Nathan says, but it holds its own intensely strong flavors, balancing out the dish.
As a palate cleanser, Bambara recommends Inniskillin by the glass, a dessert ice wine with residual sugars that freshen your outlook between bites. (Cait Lee and Mika Lee)
202 S. Main, SLC
Fresh ingredients, carbonara made tableside, attentive service: What’s not to like?
The Mirenda family who owns five Italian restaurants in Utah is excited to announce two new ways to feast on their delicious Sicilian food. At Sicilia Mia, the Holladay location, they have created a new five-course menu that is available Monday through Thursday. Co-owner Giuseppe Mirenda explains that this feast begins with a choice of either caprese or Caesar salad. Appetizers following the salad include a choice of the soup of the day, fashioned from fresh ingredients chosen by the chef, or sautéed mussels with red tomato sauce. The subsequent primi or first dish
pasta course includes a choice of homemade ravioli mozzarella in a pumpkin cream sauce topped with walnuts and mint, or spaghetti sautéed in white wine sauce with halibut, raisins and pine nuts. The next course, the secondi, or meat course, presents a choice between steak Sinatra, a grilled breaded rib-eye steak topped with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes or pesce bianco, a white fish prepared in a delicate blood orange sauce flavored with fennel, oranges and green onion. Mirenda explains that Sicilian cooking often incorporates more flavoring and spices than traditional Italian fare. “Because Sicily is on the coast, there is a lot of seafood. Garlic, lemon and oranges are picked from the land and incorporated into the cuisine. Eggplant is
also traditional.” Giuseppe’s mother, Margarita D’alessandro, makes the tiramisu and cannoli that comprise the final dessert course. At the bottom of the menu, there is an option to choose to add truffles to accompany all of the courses. “Truffles are a very rare Italian mushroom found on the humid parts of the mountains in Northern Italy,” says Giuseppe.
The Mirendas are busy launching La Trattoria di Francesco in the Sugar House area. “This restaurant is the real Italian deal—all of our other restaurants are 98% Italian and this one is 100%. It offers 100% Italian culture,” says Mirenda. The restaurant features two rooms with a capacity of 8-25 people. “Within these rooms, the kitchen is visible,” Mirenda says. “It’s possible to see a display of all of the cuts of meat and fish we offer.”
He explains that dinner at this location is a leisurely experience of 1½ to two hours in which the courses are prepared separately upon ordering. As a final course, diners may choose from two homemade desserts made from scratch by Margarita D’alessandro.
“We would like to thank all the people from Utah for giving us this opportunity to bring a new atmosphere and a new way to serve Sicilian food here,” Mirenda says. “Our family wouldn’t be here without that opportunity and we look forward to this new adventure in opening our newest location.” (Carolyn Campbell)
Trattoria di Franceso
1500 S. 1500 East, SLC
Crazy Delicious ’round the Clock Cue
Follow the smoke, find the flavor, 24-7
Growing up in his native Georgia, Benjamin Stalling’s great grandmother, Ella Lee Webb, taught him the art of cooking while his mother showed him how to create traditional Southern barbecue.
Today, he brings that multigenerational knowledge of creating melt-in-your mouth meat to his restaurant, Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack, located just north of 3300 South on SLC’s State Street.
His secret technique of cooking meat “hot and fast, and then wrapping it in Saran Wrap during the resting phase, locks in the moisture so that it essentially steams itself when it comes out of the pit,” says Stalling.
Flavorful, tender and moist smoked meats such as pulled pork, beef brisket, beef ribs, chicken, burnt ends and occasionally, lamb, are weighed by the ounce—$1.50/ounce, or just $1/ounce if you pay in cash. House sauces, including barbecue and Southern mustard sauce, are included to enhance the meat’s flavor.
The individualized measurement allows diners to customize their portions. Stalling explains that the flexible option of “creating your own plate” makes it possible to fashion a unique feast at every visit. “It’s ‘build your own’ everything,” Stalling says. “There are no instructions. You go out there and get what you need, and that’s it.”
Along with the variety of meats, sides include mac and cheese with a thick, rich sauce and a bit of a kick, beans, coleslaw, corn bread, black-eyed peas, salad greens and dirty rice. They’re all offered a la carte at $4 for a half pound. Desserts—including apple, peach or cherry crisp, banana pudding and lemon icebox pie—are priced at $1/ounce. Stalling’s own favorite combo is to add ribs, chicken, pulled pork, mac and cheese, collard greens, barbecued beans and coleslaw to his plate. For a sip of Southern sweetness, free Kool-Aid is offered with food purchases and a quart of Southern sweet tea is $4. The option to buy meats, sides and desserts in individual portions makes it possible to both have a dine-in feast or take it with you to savor at home. Catering is also available.
“If you’re hungry now, you won’t be when you leave Benji’s,” Stalling promises.
Open 24-7, the restaurant’s hours can accommodate all customers’ work schedules. And there’s also food for dogs at Benji’s. “We smoke our bones for 60 hours, then sell them for $15/bag as dog treats,” Stalling says. The dog treats are offered in honor of King, a dog that Benji rescued when the canine was 8 weeks old.
In the winter, Stalling hopes to launch Benji’s Meals On Wheels, “a home feast delivery service like Blue Apron. With a minimum order of four meals, we will deliver the food to you hot and ready.” (Carolyn Campbell)
Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack
3245 S. State, SLC