Dining | Frat Brothers: In Sandy, the Cannella kids branch out on their own at Fratelli 

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Enthusiasts of good, inexpensive, no-nonsense, family-style Italian fare are undoubtedly familiar with Cannella’s. For more than two decades, Cannella’s has provided Salt Lakers with tasty Italian-American cuisine in a loosen-your-belt ultra-casual atmosphere. For much of those two decades, brothers Pete Cannella and Dave Cannell worked in their family restaurant. Yes, they are brothers, despite the different spellings of their last names. (Don’t ask; it’s too long a tale to recount here.)

In Italian, the word fratelli translates as “brethren.” Fratello is “brother.” And, in the new Sandy Quarry Bend megadevelopment, brothers Dave and Pete are continuing the Cannella’s tradition of home-style Italian cooking, albeit in a much snazzier atmosphere than Pop’s place.

There’s easy and ample parking in the not-yet-completed Quarry Bend Shopping Center, making it a cinch to get in and out of Fratelli Ristorante. Upon entering the restaurant, customers are met by a cascading floor-to-ceiling glass waterfall of the sort you’re likely to find at upscale eateries in Vegas. Pretty cool. And so is the rest of the restaurant, which is decked out in contemporary fashion with a small deli counter on one side and a mélange of tables and booths in the dining room, each spotlighted by striking modern lamps which hang from the high ceiling. This is a very smart-looking restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s also very generic. It could be anything. A section of one wall is dedicated to a handful of B&W photos of the Cannella family and ancestors. Personally, I wish that personal touch would have extended to more of the restaurant.

Table service at Fratelli is a mixed bag, with some of the staff still getting used to the menu, wines and so on. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a very professional chap named Jared for your server. Thankfully, while Pete spends most of his time in the kitchen, Dave oversees the front of the restaurant, handling wine service for underage staff members—who cannot legally serve alcohol—and keeping quality control in check while he functions as head waiter/host/GM/sommelier.

During recent visits to Fratelli, I’ve rambled my way through much of the menu. And, I appreciated our server’s ability to go with the flow during one lengthy, wine-steeped lunch with some wine brokers as we ordered one dish and another and another with no apparent rationale, reason or routine. Who says you’ve gotta eat dessert last?

A shared Caprese salad ($7) was everything it ought to be: fresh Roma tomatoes and sliced buffalo mozzarella topped with fragrant basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper. By the way, Fratelli gets kudos from me for actually stocking each table with its own pepper mill. Few restaurant activities make me crazier than having a server lean over my shoulder with a 4-foot pepper mill and the admonition to “say when!”

An appetizer of clams and mussels ($9) steamed in garlic-lemon broth fell short of expectations. First, for that price, I’d expect more than a half-dozen tiny clams and the same portion of mussels. Second, lemon overwhelmed the sauce; I’d cut back on the citrus by about half. An $8 antipasti plate is rudimentary: three slices of provolone and equal amounts of prosciutto, sopprassata, capicola and Genoa salami, topped with a few tiny morsels of roasted artichoke heart. I loved the artichoke but wished for a much ampler portion. My favorite Fratelli appetizer was the plate of homemade meatballs and Colosimo’s sausage ($7), smothered in Pete and Dave’s grandmother’s yummy marinara sauce. You also can order the same sausage or meatballs as side dishes for $3 each. The Margherita pizza ($9), while maybe not reaching the heights of Settebello’s, is darned good, too.

Let’s talk cheese: When servers deliver your order at Fratelli, they also arrive with a big bowl of grated Parmesan cheese. “Would you like cheese on that?” they ask. Well, I prefer to taste my pasta, salad or whatever before dousing it with cheese. So I wish servers would simply leave a small bowl of Parmesan on each table for customers themselves to apply, as with the aforementioned black pepper. I’d also rather they offered top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano—but then, the brethren would probably have to raise the price of each dish to pay for it. As it stands, prices at Fratelli are very reasonable.

Just like at Cannella’s, the lasagna ($9), spaghetti with meatballs ($8) and rigatoni with spicy Italian sausage ($8) are all delectably dependable. And thanks for not increasing the price for these dishes from lunch to dinner! The homemade gnocchi ($11) in creamy Gorgonzola sauce with spinach and toasted walnuts was scrumptious, but very rich. You’ll want to share it. Clam linguini ($14) was excellent, served with an abundance of small cockles in a slightly sweet white-wine, garlic, butter and lemon sauce. But my favorite Fratelli dish is the bucatini carbonara ($11). Bucatini is thick, hollow spaghetti, and at Fratelli, it’s cooked perfectly al dente before being tossed with fresh peas, pancetta, black pepper, Parmesan cheese and raw egg. Aside from my own kitchen, this is the first authentic carbonara I’ve found in the Salt Lake Valley.

A serious piece of advice: You must order “The Cake” at Fratelli. This is the same cake—made by Martin Perham of Martin’s Fine Desserts—served at Pete Cannella’s wedding. It’s a luscious layered cake with a pistachio crust, lemon mousse, fresh berries and a thin layer of lemon glaze, butter cream and marzipan. The Cake might just be the tastiest I’ve ever encountered, especially with Pete’s homemade strawberry, pistachio and vanilla ice cream alongside.

There are still a few kinks to be worked out at Fratelli. But, like Cannella’s, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find Fratelli Ristorante still standing 20 years from now.

FRATELLI RISTORANTE 9236 Village Shop Drive, Sandy, 495-4550, Lunch & Dinner Monday-Saturday

Correction: In my recent roundup of yurt dining [“Yurts So Good,” Feb. 21, City Weekly], I stated that the Silver Fissure Yurt at Park City Mountain Resort is open in the evenings. It is not. According to its banquet supervisor, “the Yurt is not a venue at the resort for the 2007-08 season and we do not plan on re-opening it in the evening anytime soon.” My apologies for the misinformation which was based on the 2006-07 season and the PCMR Website.

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