During the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, the chic dining spots in Park City will be bursting at the seams with glitterati, paparazzi and the usual hordes of Hollywood hangers-on. Yeah, well, this article isn’t about that. Rather, I’d like to turn my attention this week to a duo of Park City dining destinations that are all about value, and that are especially good choices for family-friendly dining: Deer Valley’s Cena Ristorante and Royal Street Café.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly call either of these restaurants cheap. However, by Deer Valley standards, they are surprisingly economical. Entrees at both restaurants only rarely bust the $20 ceiling, and good meals can be had for much less. So, if you’re in Park City and looking for a place to eat that won’t break the bank, don’t be too quick to write off Deer Valley.
Located in The Chateaux at Deer Valley, Cena Ristorante & Lounge is owned and operated by the folks at Stein Eriksen Lodge, including food and beverage director Zane Holmquist, who oversees the cuisine at the restaurant. “We want to offer customers Salt Lake City pricing,” said Holmquist. “And we want to give families visiting Park City and Deer Valley an inexpensive dining option.” Well, they’ve succeeded. Most menu items on the Cena dinner menu come in under $20, and most kids menu selections—including spaghetti & meatballs and pizzas—are in the $4 to $7 range.
Service at Cena is very friendly, but professional, headed up by managers Hayes Hill and Jason Berrett, and the classy ambiance is quite appealing. Meals begin with fresh, warm, rustic bread served on a granite tile with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with small ramekins of crushed chili peppers and Parmesan cheese alongside—a nice touch. The wine list is modest, but contains some interesting selections and fair pricing. I’ve tried almost all of the dishes at Cena, from spaghetti & meatballs and Creminelli pepperoni pizzetta, to pasta Bolognese and beef carpaccio, and I’ve yet to find a dish that wasn’t very, very good.
Especially recommended, though, is the clam appetizer ($11). It’s a big pile of fried clams—served wrapped in newspaper like you’d see in London—with a delicious crispy and crunchy coating and spicy yellow tomato sauce for dipping. Those clams are a must. The wood-fired pizettas are also excellent. There’s a pepperoni pizza ($11) made with high-quality Creminelli pepperoni that kids love, as well as my favorite: a “winter” Margherita pizza ($11) made with oven-roasted tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella.
For pasta, the butternut-squash ravioli ($19) is sure hard to top. It’s housemade raviolis stuffed with slow-roasted duck meat and butternut squash, tossed in a delectable pine-nut brown-butter sauce. I also really like the cappellini frutti di mare, which is angel hair-type pasta with steamed clams and mussels, sea bass and sopressata, bathed in a light wine sauce with just a touch of Pernod. For dessert, I have just one word: tiramisu. It’s terrific.
Like Cena, Deer Valley Resort’s Royal Street Café is open for lunch and dinner, and also offers a kids menu, along with many adult temptations. For example, there is a very nice wine selection and signature cocktails like the award-winning blueberry mojito, created by talented Royal Street mixologist Bonnie Ulmer. I like to start out meals with the delicious (and delicious-looking) fresh Dungeness crab tower ($18), a culinary/architectural wonder made of generous Dungeness crab chunks, avocado, tomato concassé, pea sprouts and crispy spiced wontons, with wasabi, ginger-soy and sweet chili dipping sauces. Kids always love the grilled-chicken quesadilla ($12), which comes with avocado salsa (aka guacamole) and cilantro-lime sour cream.
Of course, you’d be foolish to visit Deer Valley without trying their famous Deer Valley turkey chili ($8), which has put a smile on skiers’ faces for many, many years now. A quandary I always encounter at Royal Street Café is which burger to buy, because there are two excellent choices. First, there is cheddar cheeseburger made with Niman Ranch all-natural beef (or turkey or housemade veggie patty), with sauteed crimini mushrooms and onions on a fresh-baked ciabatta bun, with garlic-Parmesan-herb shoestring fries alongside ($16). Just as tasty, however, is the bison burger: a natural bison patty—ground and formed in-house—with maple bacon, pepper-jack cheese, sauteed onions, guacamole, chipotle mayo and housemade barbecue sauce on a ciabatta bun with shoestring fries ($18).
New to the Royal Street menu this season is andouille and shrimp gumbo ($11), a respectable Louisiana-style gumbo made with wild royal red shrimp, fresh andouille made in-house and scallion-spiked rice. Indeed, Royal Street seems to have taken a slight Cajun-Creole turn this year, with the inclusion of items such as muffuletta panini “bites” ($12) with homemade salami, rosemary ham, olive salad, provolone cheese and sun-dried tomato aioli, and the also-new crawfish bisque, made with crawfish tail meat, citrus cream and chive oil ($9).
It probably shouldn’t come as any surprise, since Deer Valley is synonymous with excellence, that the service at both Cena Ristorante and Royal Street Café is thoroughly professional. Top-notch servers are friendly and informative, and they not only know their way around the meal menus, but also around the restaurants’ respective wine and cocktail lists. Both Deer Valley Resort and Stein Eriksen Lodge have world-class employee training programs and it really shows at the Cena and Royal Street lunch and dinner tables. These places might be family-friendly, but they sure aren’t Applebee’s!
CENA RISTORANTE & LOUNGE
7815 Royal St. East, Park City
ROYAL STREET CAFE
7600 Royal St., Park City