Cari Taylor-Carlson

Onesto Offers the Pure Pleasure of Pasta

Third Ward Italian restaurant offers wonderful pasta dishes, and much more.

By - Nov 6th, 2014 03:32 pm
Onesto. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson .

Onesto. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Before we could bring ourselves to order lunch, while we dithered over the delicious pasta choices at Onesto, our server suggested we sample a “jar.” A jar? “It’s our way of serving Italian spreads,” he says. “We package them in small Mason jars.” That meant we had to commit to one of four choices: White Bean Dip with Walnut Pesto, or Fresh Mozzarella, Basil and Preserved Lemon, or Fig, Toasted Walnut and Gorgonzola and Housemade Ricotta with Tomato Confit.

We chose Ricotta with Tomato Confit and found it so delicious that the first word at the table was “Yummmmm.” Chunks of confit and fresh basil combined with a spoonful of ricotta and spread on house-made bread made a memorable mouthful. One person could easily empty the jar, and no, we were not invited to take the cute little Mason jar home with us.

Since all the pasta (as well as the bread) is made in-house, four of us ordered pasta from the list of seven. We found only winners. A self-declared gnocchi snob, I found this gnocchi exceeded my expectations. It was light, tender, gently salted, and made a perfect companion to the Wild Mushroom Ragu. Often ragu is a heavy sauce made with meat. Onesto’s tomato-based ragu let the earthy flavors of crimini, shitake, portabella, and oyster mushrooms dominate the sauce.

For a second mushroom-infused dish we sampled Fusilli with asparagus and cremini mushrooms in a truffle cream sauce. We found plentiful mushrooms and lots of crisp, crunchy asparagus in a white sauce designed for people who appreciate the strong, possibly overwhelming flavor of truffles.

The caramelized red onion and sweet corn combined with house-made ricotta in the Sweet Corn Ravioli was not our favorite. We decided the dish needed more caramelized onion, more sweet corn, more ricotta, and a more delicate pasta to ensnare the filling. On the plus side, there was plenty of brown butter to use up any leftover housemade bread.

For many, the test of authentic Italian cuisine comes in the shape of a simple meatball. Onesto’s classic Meatballs and Pasta in marinara sauce won the day. These meatballs, made of Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef, had a crispy crust instead of the usual soft exterior.  The marinara, another Italian sauce that can be hit or miss, was thick and slightly sweet with a hint of sage, a sauce that tasted mainly of tomato. It was not a filled with the usual potpourri of herbs that often dominate a basic red.

The only difference between the lunch menu and the dinner menu is the price and portions of the pasta dishes with lunch portions smaller, though certainly adequate, especially when one indulges in the joy of dipping the crusty bread in the olive oil conveniently located on every table. For example, Wild Mushroom Ragu costs $11.00 at lunch. The larger portion $16.00 at dinner.

Sampling a jar. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Sampling a jar. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

One friend deviated from the pasta menu and opted for a sandwich, Smoked Chicken with pistachio pesto, provolone, and sun-dried tomatoes on ciabatta. It came with sweet potato fries. We looked at the sandwich and wondered how she could get her mouth around it. It was fat, indeed intimidating, as if its innards were ready to spurt out at the first nip. That didn’t happen. Soft, housemade ciabatta saved the day and my friend ate her sandwich without decorating her sweater with pistachio pesto. She found the pulled chicken especially moist and tender as well it should, as it came from one of the owner’s other restaurants, The Smoke Shack. Even the skinny sweet potato fries were worth a mention. They tasted exactly like roasted sweet potato.

Onesto is more than a pasta joint. The menu’s sandwiches include a personal favorite, fontina, provolone, gorgonzola, and tomato confit on ciabatta; the main dishes include grilled eggplant cannelloni and seared chicken, scallops or salmon; appetizers include honey-roasted bruschetta; and there’s an enticing list of salads including a popular beet salad and, of course, antipasto.

Although we didn’t sample the desserts, our server told us there are two regulars, ricotta-lemon cheesecake and olive oil chocolate cake with pistachio brittle. What’s that? I’ve had olive oil bread, but olive oil in chocolate cake…I hate to leave unfinished business. Guess I’ll have to come back.

On the Menu

221 N. Broadway
open every day at 11:00 am   

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