Mamma mia! Utah can’t seem to get enough of the Mirenda family and their Sicilian cooking.
Francesco and Giuseppe, the father-son duo behind the popular eateries Sicilia Mia and Antica Sicilia, have opened a third in Sugar House, called Dolce Sicilia (with a fourth planned for downtown Salt Lake City later this year).
The name of the newest spot means “sweet Sicily,” and many of the dishes — some imported from the other spots and a few unique to Sugar House — are a treat.
If you go for lunch, when the prices were recently 15 percent off, start with the tagliere burrata ($13.95). An ornate cutting board is filled with slices of prosciutto (shaped into roses), a ball of gooey burrata and large, warm figs glazed in a pomegranate and balsalmic vinegar reduction. It’s only on the lunch menu and it’s worth an afternoon trip.
You could easily make a meal of antipasti, such as the arancini ($9.95), a classic dish of stuffed rice balls, named for their “little orange” shape. The crunchy outer coating of bread crumbs gives way to Bolognese sauce and mozzarella. The dinner portion comes with five rice balls, so definitely share. A tris bruschettone ($14.95) is also good. Three toasted pieces of bread (each large enough to share) are topped with the chef’s choices. We sampled the classic — diced tomatoes with appropriately heavy doses of garlic — along with one slathered in goat cheese and complemented with gorgonzola and a third with a too-briny tapenade.
The citrus-y tuna tartara ($16.99) was studded with flavorful avocado, red onions and capers. It just needed a cracker or bread vehicle with which to eat it.
For salads, skip the spinach ($10.95), even though it’s a house favorite, unless you like heated greens. Go for the radicchio ($8.95) for its nice balance of crunchy walnuts and chunks of gorgonzola. Go big with the bresaola ($10.95). It looks like an impenetrable volcano of meat from the outside. But the mound of air-dried beef, aged until it looks almost purple, houses a nest of arugula dressed with olive oil, lemon and oregano.
With its emphasis on foods from the island of Sicily, there’s no surprise that the menu is heavy on seafood. One of its specialties, spaghetti al nero di seppia ($23.95), was sold out, so we missed the cuttlefish and shrimp in a squid ink sauce. There is also the intriguing-sounding tagliatelle al granchio ($23.95), pasta with crab and rum sauce.
But it’s a dish with Roman roots that steals the show.
There’s a reason the spaghetti alla carbonara ($23.95 for dinner, $22.95 for lunch) is at all three restaurants. Watch as a wheel of Grana Padano, similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, is ignited, melting the cheese as the server stirs in the house-made spaghetti, already tossed with eggs and pancetta. The luscious sauce may actually stop your heart.
Another artery-clogging delight is pasta al forno ($17.95). The rigatoni pasta is baked with shredded beef, lamb and pork that marinated all night in marinara, along with Italian sausage. It is delivered in a ramekin straight from the oven, the browned and melted mozzarella and Parmigiano blanketing the top.
For vegetarians, the ravioli funghi porcini ($23.95) is filled with diced mushrooms and topped with a sauce of slivered, meaty porcini and truffle sauce.
The Secondi section of the menu is filled with steak, chicken and more seafood — from pistachio-crusted salmon to sesame-crusted tuna. These hearty offerings will hold a lot of appeal in the fall and winter.
That said, the pollo affumicato ($20.95), a pounded, sautéed chicken breast with smoked mozzarella and mushrooms in a light cream sauce — served with a side of decadent mashed potatoes — is perfect for a summer night. It’s a huge portion of chicken, worthy of splitting.
The prices — which average $25 per dinner entree — may also necessitate sharing. Like the chicken portion, many are large and filling enough to do so.
If you have room for dessert, the wait staff bring cups of tiramisu and panna cotta ($6.95), along with a pyramid of profiterol, or puff pastry filled with cream and glazed in chocolate ($9.95).
Despite the sign on the outside of the building, pizza is no longer served in Sugar House, unlike at the other spots. The owners took it off the menu about a month ago because there are several pizzerias nearby.
Dolce Sicilia, in the former Black Sheep Cafe space, retains that restaurant’s exposed beams and brick, but is decorated with pictures of Italian seaside resorts and Italian stars. There’s seating at the bar, at converted wine barrels and outside.
On our visits, Dolce Sicilia wasn’t as busy as the other two locations, where diners report long waits, so it’s a good alternative for fans. (But you’ll spend time searching for parking.)
You’ll find good service, with a lot of exclamations of “Mamma mia” thrown in. We got a heavy sell for a nightly special, which was a little off-putting. But it’s easily overlooked.
We left with our own cries of “I’m stuffed.”
★★★ (out of ★★★★)<br>Dolce Sicilia<br>Food • ★★★<br>Mood • ★★★<br>Service • ★★½<br>This is the third location for the Mirenda family, who also run Sicilia Mia and Antica Sicilia. The rich dishes, and some of the prices, make this worthy of special occasions. As the name suggests, this restaurant is a treat.<br>Location • 1048 E. 2100 South, #110, Salt Lake City; 385-528-3275<br>Online • siciliamiautah.com/dolce-sicilia<br>Hours • Mondays to Sundays, noon to 10 p.m.; dinner starts at 2:30 p.m.<br>Children’s menu • No<br>Prices • $$-$$$$<br>Liquor • Full bar<br>Reservations • Yes<br>Takeout • No<br>Wheelchair access • Yes<br>Outdoor dining • Yes<br>On-site parking • No<br>Credit cards • All major