Pizza and pasta with modern pizzazz at Winflo Osteria
Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., June 7, 2013
Dinner: Mon.-Thu., 4-10pm;
Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 11am-3pm
Winflo Osteria1315 W. Sixth, 512/582-1027
Dinner: Mon.-Thu., 4-10pm; Fri., 4-11pm; Sat., 5-11pm; Sun., 5-10pm
Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 11am-3pm
Old West Austin's new darling, Winflo Osteria, embodies the lovely spirit of its renovated 1922 bungalow, with a touch of modern pizzazz. This respite from Sixth Street's insomniac bustle is shaded by an enormous live oak old enough to witness the transformation of Austin. Inside the chartreuse exterior, the star of Winflo's midpriced Italian cuisine is billed as their Neapolitan-style pizza. Perhaps, though, this specialty of Executive Chef John Pennington, co-owner with wife Megan Dickson and team, loses some of the limelight when compared with other menu treats.
A short stroll from Clarksville to the eatery for a Wednesday 6:30pm reservation (essential to avoid lengthy wait times) flushed our cheeks, reminding us that summer is almost here. Despite the small restaurant being packed to the gills already, my dining friend and I were seated immediately and had drinks in hand within 10 minutes. My refreshing Italian Mojito ($7), featuring Branca Menta and lemon-lime soda, and her tasty Branca Mule ($7), a Moscow with a Fernet floater, are reasons enough to return, especially when paired with happy hour prices on their large, terraced patio under a twinkle-lit tree. (There's also a listening room downstairs with acoustic shows.)
The small dining room is classy and chic, with comfortable chairs. Though hardly a square foot is unoccupied, the ambience packs a punch. The wood floors contrast beautifully with steely grays, accented with windows everywhere, and a beautiful wine rack. Over the bar, industrial meets elegant with a bright white design delight: a dropped ceiling with a sunburst effect and copper light fixtures. The room was full of workweek chatter but held to a surprisingly tolerable volume. Certainly, this is no library, but we enjoyed cocktail conversation with ease and only a few times even noticed the nearby tables or the thirsty guests lined end to end at the bar.
Our server was knowledgeable and offered suggestions without interrupting, and soon, out came the appetizers. We both enjoyed the artichoke fritti ($11): delightfully battered artichoke hearts accompanied by a creamy peppercorn dipping sauce, but the calamari ($12) was the conversation stopper. Cornmeal crusted, fried to perfection, the calamari were real, fresh, and did not last long on our table, in part because of the zingy lemon aioli. Our server gently prompted us to order the main course, an act I found helpful but also indicative of the high table turnover at this new hot spot.
I always order a salad with my meal, so I selected the arugula salad ($5) next. Though I enjoyed the julienned Granny Smith apples and candied walnuts, I wished for more of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. And it definitely needed a bit more citronette dressing; there was hardly enough to taste. Still, it was a crisp and refreshing introduction to the main show.
We switched it up for the second, and last, cocktail round: she, a glass of Villa Sandi Prosecco ($9) and me, the Sazerac ($10), prompting what shall be known as the evening's absinthe faux pas: The bar was out of it. I was midway through a story and frankly uninterested in finding my glasses to read the cocktail menu again, and the server said it would be tasty without, so I ordered. Yes, the beastly Sazerac with its Templeton rye whiskey, simple syrup, and Peychaud's Bitters was full-bodied, but it was also absolutely missing the fun punch line. Lessons learned on both sides, I suppose.
My friend's Quattro Stagioni pizza ($15), with added grilled chicken ($4), boasted portabellinis, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, and olives. She raved about it, offering me a slice. It was beautiful and I wanted to adore it, too. However, in addition to needing a tiny bit more of the delicious sauce, I found the crust – an essential component of the Neapolitan style – slightly dry and too blackened. True, imperfections are part of the quirky nature of cooking in a wood-fired, 900-degree pizza oven. The pie was otherwise tasty, and definitely a bargain with its built-for-two size. I will be back to try the Salsiccia; its crushed San Marzanos and caramelized onions sound tantalizing.
My Pesce con Puttanesca ($21), a redfish topped with the traditional Italian sauce, was divine. Perfectly seasoned, with a golden brown exterior and wonderfully flaky inside, the fish was an excellent choice to marry with such an intensely robust and zingy puttanesca. Although the sauce was not a bit spicy, the nice ratio of crushed tomatoes, capers, and olives meant it was good enough to eat alone, therefore compensating for the heavily buttered French sidecar of potato galette.
Living by the motto "there's always room for dessert," we shared the flourless chocolate torte, one of two desserts offered that evening. The intensely rich dark chocolate was delectably weighted like a truffle and topped with two plump blackberries; it was delicious. Buona sera.
New this month, Winflo began serving lunch and brunch. The brunch menu features items such as Polenta Benedict ($13) and Tiramisu French Toast ($12), in addition to pizzas. Lunch items include a soup du jour ($6), paninis ($8-10), and nicely portioned pasta dishes made in-house ($8-9). Winflo also offers gluten-free pizza crusts and penne pasta.
Summer is in the air, and so is The Great Gatsby – set the same year Winflo's bungalow home was built. Both painted with social butterflies and beautiful decor, it is worth mentioning that idiosyncrasies and flaws often make the story so much more riveting, and worth revisiting.