Enoteca is the appetizing little sister of Vespaio, a distinguished Italian mainstay on South Congress for several years now. Vespaio was hip before the rest of SoCo caught up with it. Enoteca is it's bistro side; the two share the same kitchen, and much of the same flavors you can get at Vespaio can be had at Enoteca for less money. Trust me though, if I could afford Vespaio on a regular basis, I'd be there. I think its chef's have revolved over the years, I've never had a bad experience. It's a great date place, though it can be a bit loud.
When you walk into Enoteca, there is a deli counter in the front of the store, where the daily antipasti is waiting either to be served to diners or packed up in to go containers. A bar curves around to the left, and several small 3-top tables occupy the middle of the floor, and 4 and 6-toppers to the right. The kitchen is straight back, and Vespaio to the right...just to the side of the hostess stand, is a roll-up door that leads to Vespaio. It's often open for lunch as there's a small room in the front of Vespaio that Enoteca uses for lunch diners. It is one of my favorite places to go, as it's casual, affordable, and above all, good.
In the past 4 days, I've been twice, last Thursday for dinner, and last night for a happy hour gathering. I ADORE the spaghetti carbonara, with it's lovely cream sauce and pancetta. I always ask for it with pappardelle or tagliatelli, some sort of pasta that's a bit wider than spaghetti, and they're always happy to oblige. (Actually, it's the bartender Rob, who's been there forever it seems who first suggested that to me, AND they make their own pasta.) The carbonara is my go-to dish. Love it. And now I am suffering from withdrawal, because I didn't order it either of these two last times.
On Thursday, we got some of the antipasti insalate -- beets, pepper shooters, and mixed olives. Since I had eaten a late lunch, I opted for the spinach salad, with gorgonzola, roasted red peppers and candied walnuts. Very tasty, and healthy! My friend had the avocado panini, which comes with little fried garbanzo beans on the side. He said the whole thing was delicious. For happy hour, six women had 2 bottle of the Valpolicella Classico, the fried calamari, the suppli, and the salsiccia pizza. The calimari are very consistent there -- tender and not greasy. The do a combo of the tube rings and the baby tentacles, and served it with garlic aioli and a marinara. The suppli are risotto balls, stuffed with fontina, lightly breaded and fried. It's a great light, crispy coating, and an ooze of rice and cheese, served in a tomato sauce; also a very consistent dish. Our attentive waiter Josh recommended the salsiccia pizza, with homemade fennel-pork sausage; they've got a wood-fired oven, so the thin crust comes out very nice. The sweet tooth then hit, and we split the chocolate caramel peanut tart (heaven! kinda a grown up Reese's) and the lemon olive oil cake (tasty, but not stellar, it really needed some more zip to it).
Two lovely evenings. Great company both times. An always reliable (though admittedly a bit short of spectacular) place. And now, I need my carbonara!