Enter Sostanza. Miller Motorsports Park spokesman John Gardner mentioned Sostanza to me when I came out to the track to enjoy NASCAR racing last month. I hadn’t heard of the restaurant, but Google led me to an in-depth blog review by “Mormon Foodie.” The notion of “American Fusion food” piqued my interest. What precisely does “fusion” mean in Tooele? Time to find out.
The dinner reservation I made, amended
and then changed again was handled with a
refreshing dose of friendly professionalism.
I’d heard that reservations were required on
weekends; they’re not, although it doesn’t
hurt to make one to be courteous. Walk-ins,
however, are more than welcome.
By the way, don’t let the unappealing
Main Street storefront throw you. The
Sostanza entrance is actually around the
back, as is free off-street parking. And entering
Sostanza definitely feels like leaving
Tooele. It’s a different world in there, where
soft music plays, classy art lines the walls,
soothing colors and lighting prevail, tables
are adorned with top-notch dinnerware and
cutlery and, well, the entire scene just reeks
of “fine dining.” Nonetheless, on my visits, at
least three-quarters of the customers wore
shorts and tennis shoes or flip-flops, most
had infants or toddlers in tow, and my party
was the only one that had bothered to dress
up at all. What that boils down to is: Although
the decor and the menu at Sostanza say “fine
dining,” the restaurant is, in fact, quite casual.
So, don’t be intimidated.
Dark wood chairs and tables are
complemented by big, overstuffed pillow-strewn chairs that, I’m pretty sure,
came from the now-defunct Baxter’s at the
Gateway. Those same comfy chairs can be
found in the very appealing bar/lounge
at Sostanza, which is a great place
to, well, lounge over a glass of wine
and a snack or full meal.
As I understand it, “sostanza”
is an Italian word meaning sustenance,
substance or nourishment, depending
on the context in which it’s used. And
the Sostanza menu teases the Italian palate
with items such as fettuccini Alfredo
($8), three-cheese ravioli ($14), linguine
with baby clams ($17), fritto misto ($8) and
bruschetta ($7). But really, the menu is as
eclectic as any I’ve seen lately. Fusion?
Maybe. Call it what you like. It runs the
gamut from the aforementioned Italian-influenced dishes to seafood tempura
($12), white bean and applewood bacon
soup ($6), grilled lamb chops ($18), an
Angus cowboy rib-eye ($31), Dover sole
filets with a Maryland-style crab cake
and basmati rice, and even fish tacos,
along with turkey and veggie burgers and
a popular French dip sandwich au jus.
I’d probably call that “hedging your bet,”
rather than “fusion.”
During a lunch visit, I overheard a table
of customers discussing what the penne
with Bolognese sauce ($9) might be. Before
consulting their server, it was decided that
it was “meat sauce with strips of bologna.”
Not quite. In fact, the penne Bolognese is
a zippy, meaty, rich red sauce brimming
with ground, hot, Italian sausage—not for
the faint of heart, but a very tasty dish,
indeed. And the turkey burger ($9)—at least
a one-third pound of ground turkey, grilled
and topped with white Cheddar cheese and
served on a large, soft bun—was far more
flavorful and interesting than I’d expected.
Chicken Sostanza ($15) is grilled, brined
chicken breast with sage butter, braised
vegetable ratatouille and couscous. It’s
hearty and plentiful, if not particularly awe-inspiring.
But, it’s a much better choice than
the “broasted” halibut ($22), especially if
chef Steve Berzanski has run out of halibut,
as was the case during a recent dinner visit.
Instead, either grouper or tilapia was substituted;
I can’t quite remember which, but
it didn’t matter anyway, since the fish was
cooked to the consistency of eraser rubber.
When you need a steak knife to cut into your
fish filet, it’s probably more accurate to call
it jerky rather than broasted.
I don’t want to leave the wrong impression
though. Most of the dishes I sampled at
Sostanza were very satisfying, reasonably
priced, and would pass muster at a typical
Salt Lake City restaurant. Service, though,
can be lacking. On one visit, the young lady
bussing our table knew more about the
menu and had a more appealing tableside
manner than our actual server, who had to
fetch the bartender from the lounge to open
our bottle of wine. The good news is that
Sostanza serves wine, along with beer and
cocktails, including an appealing concoction
called the Pin-Up Girl.
So, if you happen to find yourself in
or around Tooele—perhaps following
the Grand-Am races next weekend at the
Motorsports Park—I would absolutely
look for sostanza—that is, sustenance—at
29 N. Main, Tooele