One of the most delightful nuances of Italian food is the range of flavors, sauces and meats that you discover when eating from north to south in the country. The largest city in southern Italy, Naples — where Per Noi Trattoria’s chef and owner, Francesco Montino, hails from — is known for its eggplant parmigiana, pizza and seafood dishes, all of which you will find on the menu here.
Per Noi — which means “for us” in Italian — provides a sociable neighborhood locale in Sugar House. The restaurant’s muted tones, white linens and fresh flowers create a simple backdrop to its fresh Italian flavors. In the early evenings, you’ll see as many diners arriving by foot with young children as those driving up to pick up takeout on the way home from work. If you’re planning to enjoy a leisurely meal, you’ll be warmly greeted and shown to one of the tables in the small dining area or on the patio.
Fresh, hot bread is delivered with olive oil and balsamic vinegar but, oddly, no bread plates. We made use of the bread basket and dipping sauce plate instead and were pleased to receive an additional basket full once our meals arrived.
Per Noi’s casual appetizers, salads, pastas and desserts are perfect for passing around the table family-style. The menu is small, but this seems to allow each dish the focus and attention it deserves from Montino’s kitchen.
The three salads were delivered in sharable quantities, including the mista salad ($3.95) of mixed greens and fresh vegetables with excellent balsamic dressing and Caesar salad ($4.95), which lacked a sufficient amount of dressing but included plenty of fantastic, crunchy croutons.
If you love caprese salad ($6.95), this one shouldn’t be missed, thanks to high-quality ingredients from the ripe tomatoes and sliced mozzarella to the generous sprinkling of fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.
Eggplant parmigiana ($5.95) is offered as an appetizer but could easily serve as a small vegetarian entrée or shared bites with tablemates. The eggplant isn’t breaded and fried but rather sliced and seared before being stacked between layers of moist mozzarella and bright marinara sauce.
Several friends had raved about the arancini appetizer ($3.95) — a fried ball of rice stuffed with peas, mozzarella and meat served over marinara sauce — but I found this dish lacked the pronounced flavors found in many of Per Noi’s other menu items.
Better were the homemade gnocchi bathed in either Bolognese ($10.95) or pomodoro sauce ($9.95). The former offered rich, meaty flavors, but the tender gnocchi were slightly hidden under the heavier sauce. Next time, I’ll opt for the latter sauce, which I thoroughly enjoyed on other menu items, and I imagine will showcase the dumplings more appropriately.
As Naples is famous for its seafood, I was particularly excited about the spaghetti pescatore ($10.95) with calamari, shrimp, scallops and mussels. While the sauce was layered with delicate flavors of earthy tomatoes and white wine, the generous portion of seafood was mostly overcooked and rubbery (except for the mussels).
Fortunately, Per Noi’s pollo marsala ($10.95) delivered on execution and taste. The scent of marsala wine wafted around us as the plate was delivered to the table. A well-seasoned chicken breast (not pounded flat) and plentiful fresh mushrooms were covered in the rich marsala wine sauce. A substantial serving of al dente penne pasta coated in pomodoro sauce came as a side.
House-made desserts include traditional favorites such as tiramisu, cannoli and panna cotta ($3.95). The crispy cannoli pastry was stuffed with sweet, creamy filling and studded with chocolate chunks, then dusted with powdered sugar.
On one visit, we were perfectly satiated after dinner, but on this summer night, the panna cotta sounded too good to pass up, and it was good enough that we licked the serving dish clean of the smooth cooked cream topped with raspberry-puree drizzle. Expertly made coffee ($1.95), espresso ($2.50) and cappuccino ($3.50) are available as well.
In just four months, Montino and the welcoming staff at Per Noi Trattoria have already charmed those who’ve discovered this little neighborhood hideaway. With a bit more refinement in execution, this affordable newcomer could quickly develop into a reliable favorite for Salt Lake City diners.
Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Heather L. King blogs at www.examiner.com/lunch-in-salt-lake-city/heather-king. Send comments about this review to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a response at facebook.com/nowsaltlake.
Per Noi Trattoria
Overall • HH
Food • HH
Mood • HH
Service • HH
Noise • b
Neighborhood Italian eatery delivers flavor-forward appetizers, salads, pastas and meats, as well as desserts, at reasonable prices.
Location • 1588 E. Stratford Ave., Salt Lake City; 801-486-3333
Online • http://pernoitrattoria.com/Per_Noi_Trattoria/Per_Noi_Menu.html
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Saturday 4-10 p.m.
Price • $
Children’s menu • Yes
Liquor • No
Corkage • $7
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
Onsite parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major, except AmEx