Simply delicious Handsome new Italian-style tavern does best with unfussy, delectable classics

In Italy, osterie usually focus on wine and unpretentious food. This new Charleswood resto, in the space formerly occupied by Boulevard Pub & Bistro, offers a wine list that skews Italian, along with an edited menu that offers modern takes on Italian classics. The best dishes, such as roasted whole fish and cacio e pepe gnocchi, are straight-up, simple and delicious.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/08/2019 (1193 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In Italy, osterie usually focus on wine and unpretentious food. This new Charleswood resto, in the space formerly occupied by Boulevard Pub & Bistro, offers a wine list that skews Italian, along with an edited menu that offers modern takes on Italian classics. The best dishes, such as roasted whole fish and cacio e pepe gnocchi, are straight-up, simple and delicious.

Osteria del Piolo

3670 Roblin Blvd.
204-594-9550; osteriadelpiolo.com

Go for: modern Italian shared plates
Best bet: cacio e pepe gnocchi
Shared small plates: $14-$17; Shared mains: $40-$70
Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday: 4-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday: 3 p.m. until late
Licensed: yes
Noise level: moderate
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Reservations: yes, recommended

★★★★ out of five

The Osteria del Piolo — “Piolo” translates as “Peg” — is one of those suburban surprises, where a strip-mall door opens into a handsome contemporary room. With lots of dark wood offset by some white-washed brick, the large dining room leads back to an open kitchen area and a big wood-fired oven used for pizza and roasted dishes.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Osteria Del Piolo’s roasted carrots is a staff favourite.

The menu includes shareable small plates, a trio of salads, a trio of pasta dishes, several pizza options, and some meat and fish mains made to split among a few people. That last category includes a tomahawk steak (unsampled), which is a massive rib-eye served on the long bone, weighing in at 40-45 ounces and $70.

Lovely arancini have lots of umami undertones. The crisped, rich risotto balls are stuffed with roasted garlic and morsels of oxtail, an underappreciated cut that works beautifully here, and served with bone-marrow butter.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Osteria del Piolo is one of those suburban surprises, where a strip-mall door opens into a handsome contemporary room.

A caesar salad is anchovy-forward, which I like, but a bit overdressed.

There are beets three ways, roasted in chunks, pickled sharp and cut translucently thin, and fried into crisp chips. All these textures and flavours are brought together by pistachio pesto and a Parmesan aioli.

Brussels sprouts are very good — tender-crisp and caramelized and offset with house-made sausage and chili oil for heat.

These vegetable dishes really sing, but other menu items are perhaps too complicated for their own good. Take the charred broccolini –– the broccolini is smoky, the pickled blackberries sour-sweet, the hazelnuts have a nice edge of bitterness, and I could basically eat a bowl of that lemon mascarpone with a spoon. All the individual ingredients are good, but they don’t quite come together.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free PressOsteria del Piolo’s Cacio e PepeAugust 25, 2019

The comforting spaghetti carbonara features little cubes of guanciale (cured pork cheek) and a perfectly cooked egg yolk on top, waiting to melt into the already rich and eggy sauce.

Cacio e pepe gnocchi are marvels of simplicity. The sauce, made with pecorino and fontina cheeses, is smoothly emulsified and properly peppery, and the potato gnocchi are tender inside and browned up on the outside.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A fungi pizza goes into the wood-fired oven at Osteria del Piolo on Roblin Boulevard.

A sampled salsiccia pizza is spicy and good, the thin crust crisped up but not blistered and topped with a brush of tomato sauce and a judicious mix of creamy ricotta, roasted fennel and sausage.

The whole seabream is fire-roasted and served with clams and a casual toss of mushrooms and fennel. The fish is moist and mild, made to mix in with the brothy, lemony sauce and the spicy smear of nduja, a spreadable pork salumi. (Nduja is kind of having a moment right now, and it’s easy to see why. It makes almost anything better.) Plenty for two people, the seabream is presented in a big shallow dish, but we could have used some more utensils for easy filleting.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Fire-roasted sea bream is a crowd favourite.

The dessert menu is short and simple. Tiramisu is too often a disappointing Italian dessert, either soggy or sadly dry, but the Osteria del Piolo’s version — easily big enough for two or three people — reclaims it. The texture is creamy and light, and the kick of booze — Kahlua amplified with vodka — is balanced with espresso intensity and a touch of sweetness.

Caramel budino is also good. Maybe it’s just that the Italian term sounds more sophisticated than “pudding,” but this dessert is grown-up, silky and subtle.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The walls of Osteria Del Piolo are adorned with art from local artist Kal Barteski.

Service in the main dining room is welcoming and attentive, and the room feels good. Take note, though: The venue is divided into two sections separated by a vestibule, both serving the same food. The lounge side would be fine for drinks and snacks, but the ambience — sports on TV, cramped tables — doesn’t measure up to what is, after all, an expensive menu. Service is still very friendly on the lounge side, but for a full dinner it can get haphazard.

Things can get busy at what looks to be a popular neighbourhood spot, so reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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