Pasta can go so many ways: comfort food, vegetarian, a meat lover’s delight. Or it can even be elevated to fine dining. Few foods are as versatile and universally appealing as a good plate of pasta. The recently opened iTalico Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar in Palo Alto proves the sweet spot of homemade pasta dishes can still find an audience.
iTalico’s owners have already made their mark on California Avenue with Terun, a beloved gourmet pizzeria just down the street. The new restaurant’s design makes great use of the space, giving it an intimate yet luxe feel. Dinner service is very popular and the staff has proven that experience matters by keeping calm during the chaos of the first few months.
The menu offers a variety of mix and match charcuterie and fromage. From the small plates menu, we could not pass up the Polipo ($13) octopus carpaccio out of sheer curiosity—how can octopus be so thinly sliced and done carpaccio style, which is usually raw? We were extremely pleased when the appetizer arrived with cooked octopus that were compressed together like a sausage then thinly sliced. The drizzle of lemony sauce gave it just the right amount of dressing, but really the dish won with the soft texture of each disc of octopus.
All the pasta dishes sounded wonderful, but we went with ravioli upon the waitress’s recommendation. Other frontrunners were sweet potato gnocchi ($19), a simple Bucatini ($17) and the more exotic Conchiglie al Forno ($20). Stuffed with pork, beef, and ricotta, the five ravioli ($18) pockets were laid across a streak of tomato, butter and parmigiana sauce. The pasta was supple and cooked al dente and had a fitting proportion of meat filling.
I rarely have ossobuco because it is pricy and hearty. But of the ones I’ve tried, I have loved them all and iTalico’s version is no exception. For $29, the portion is quite large with two slow-braised, crosscut veal shanks drenched in a thick, savory stew. Words can’t describe how soft the pieces of meat were and the richness of the sauce. All this sat atop creamy polenta cooked just right. It was a dish definitely worth its price and great for sharing.
For dessert, the trifle ($10) provided the perfect balance of sweet crème and fresh wild berries over moist sponge cake. It was served in a cocktail glass and dusted with cocoa powder.
I suspect the staff has experience from Terun and the potential to iron out any kinks in the coming months. If the ossobuco and ravioli were any indication, the kitchen has already found its comfort zone.
341 California Ave, Palo Alto.