Evening dinner restaurant review.
It’s not often we dine out at Italian restaurants. In fact, it’s been more than five years since we first dined at Michelangelo Ristorante. Our last meal there was decent enough, but neither of us felt completely comfortable there. I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why. When a friend recently declared “Michalangelo’s” as his favourite Italian in restaurant, I felt as though it was time for a second visit.
Searching on-line for information regarding Michelango Ristorante yielded a few eyebrow-raising comments. One site proudly boasted the service style was reminiscent of the famous Seinfeld character, the soup nazi; quoting from said review “According to folks who frequent this place, there’s a selection of unwritten rules that prevail at this basement restaurant. First, don’t ever ask for anything “well done” and second, only one pasta sauce is allowed per table.” I’m not sure if this was really ever accurate, we certainly never experienced such grand pretension on either of our visits.
Further on-line research threw up the fact that the restaurant changed hands back in 2004. The original Italian owners moved back home and passed the restaurant over (recipes and all) to the new present owner Scott Ashley. In fact, everything pointed to a restaurant still putting out quality food, which never seemed to be in question.
For those unaware of Michelango Ristorante, it is located in an unusual basement space in central Sugarhouse (just across 1100 East from the Whole Foods store). The subterranean locale makes for a dark romantic ambiance, especially at night with the candlelit, white table-clothed space. As we descended the stairs around 8PM, the restaurant had a nice buzz about the place. It was comfortably busy, around 75% full. Our table wasn’t quite ready so we were asked to take a seat at the bar area.
I did think they were missing a trick here, the bar didn’t really seem to be actively staffed. Whilst it appeared well stocked, there was no one around to offer up a drink while we waited. The restaurant seems to use the space as the area to store and pour drinks, but not a place to sit and sip while waiting. With a little work, they could have a great little pre or post-dinner drink spot. After a few minutes, we were led to our table. Young and old couples on a romantic night out, families dining together, friends catching up, everyone seemed content and happy. And that made me happy too.
‘By the glass’ options on the wine menu were described by varietal only, no actual names oddly. I went with the “Pinot Noir” ($8.00), which was very drinkable despite its mysterious nature. Whilst I waited for the wine to arrive, we nibbled on the complimentary bread, oil and vinegar.
While perusing, we noted the menus seemed slightly disorganised. The specials menu was hidden at the back, even after the drink items bizarrely. This did lead me to wonder if they were actually specials, or just a full time menu extension. That said, we both found some delicious looking selections on the back page. We decided to start with Sausage appetizer special ($6.00):
A sliced Italian sausage was bathed in a sage-y tomato sauce. The dish was very rich, herby, and hearty. I thought the dish was excellent, a good autumnal plate. Wendi agreed and she is not a sausage fan, it was the peppers in the sauce that sold her.
Our second selection from the specials menu was Wendi’s choice of the Risotto with black truffle special ($30.00):
Ever the sucker for truffles, Wendi had her selection ready within microseconds of seeing this dish on the menu. She described the dish as rich, creamy, and not at all light on the truffles. I thought the price was very fair given the especially generous truffle topping.
I went with one of the menu’s more standard items, the Chicken Marsala ($14.95):
this also came with a side of veggies:
I’ll hold my hands up and admit that Italian cuisine is by no means my forte, but I found this dish quite enjoyable. The pounded chicken made for a slightly unusual texture in places, but nothing bad, just different to what I’m used to. The sweet marsala sauce was very agreeable.
The accompanying veggies were also welcomed, spuds, squash and eggplant. The rosemary roasted potatoes in particular possessed a decent crunch without being burnt to the charcoal-like crispness I have seen elsewhere.
For dessert we chose the Panna Cotta ($5.95) and a couple of Italian coffees ($1.95 each):
The panna cotta was not to my taste, topped with coffee beans and a strong coffee sauce. I prefer a fruit accompanymet to cut through the creaminess. Wendi however was much more enthusiastic.
Happily, there wasn’t a hint of pretension or snootiness throughout the meal. In fact, service was stellar, with who I think was a manager checking in between our server’s visits to ensure all was going well with the meal. Our server was eager and friendly and the ancillary staff replaced bread and water speedily and without fuss. Based on our experience there was not a trace of soup nazi-esque behaviour. We’d suspect you are free to order as many pasta sauces as you like and order that steak well done too. Well, that one is a crime against food in anyone’s books.
Aside from Wendi’s more luxurious selection, I found the prices to be a lot more reasonable than I recall from the first visit. Five years is a long time mind you. Based on our meal, Michelangelo Ristorante looks set to continue turning out simple, classic, Italian dishes for many years to come. The ambiance, fresh food, and amenable service all add up to a great homespun taste of Italy.
2156 Highland Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
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Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.