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Osteria 2350's concept: Italian classics, simple and affordable

| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

Osteria 2350, in the Strip District, has a mission to make eating authentic and fresh Italian food more affordable to diners.

Situated next to Cioppino on Railroad Street, the 45-seat restaurant opened Sept. 15, but already is seeing a steady stream of customers day after day. Cioppino's executive chef, Greg Alauzen, opened Osteria 2350 with the hope of making it a neighborhood landmark.

"This is a concept I've been wanting to do for a while," says Alauzen, 44, who has worked as a chef for 27 years. "It's an experiment for myself. If it works well, I'd like to roll it out to the suburbs."

Alauzen named the new restaurant Osteria 2350 not only because of the address on Railroad Street, but because an osteria is a "simple Italian eatery, similar to a tavern, but less formal than a ristorante or trattoria."

"We are serving affordable, great, classic Italian food made from scratch," he says. "We're using quality, local ingredients and keeping it simple."

Osteria 2350 replaces the former Il Mercato Cafe, which was housed in the same location and was open only for lunch during the week.

"There weren't too many seats at Il Mercato -- it was more of a takeout place and deli," says Alauzen, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and former executive chef of the Steelhead Grill and Eleven.

When customers enter Osteria 2350, they're immediately struck by the exposed ductwork on the high ceiling, the Dijon mustard-colored walls and rustic wooden tables. One flat-screen television sits above the beer coolers.

"We get a lot of Cork Factory residents and business people," Alauzen says. "It's more affordable to eat here more often. We have one family who comes here four or five nights a week."

Alauzen uses the same suppliers at Osteria 2350 as he does at Cioppino -- produce from the Strip District and local farmers, Fede pasta, and house-made gnocchi and cavatelli. Paper placemats on the tables act as menus, so Alauzen can change it as often as he wants.

"I'm excited, because I've always done fine dining and high-end cuisine my whole cooking career," says Alauzen, who lives in a 134-year-old restored farmhouse in Eighty-Four with his wife and two teenagers. "I wanted to do the other end of the spectrum, but not sacrifice quality. A lot of chefs have scaled back to casual concepts."

The menu is just as Alauzen claims -- simple and affordable. Fresh salads include arugula with roasted peppers, gorgonzola, and balsamic vinaigrette; radicchio and endive with grapefruit and red onions; chilled rapini with hot pepper oil and pecorino; and a classic Caesar with romaine hearts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Diners can try the antipasti, such as marinated olives, pickled vegetables, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers and roasted parsnips.

Substantial sandwiches feature prosciutto and fresh mozzarella; mozzarella and marinated tomatoes with roasted peppers; turkey club with applewood smoked bacon; meatball sub; and capicola, salami, prosciutto and aged provolone. The pastas include spaghetti with meatballs braised in tomato sauce; cavatelli with rapini, roasted carrots and olive oil; rigatoni with sausage and braised pork in tomato sauce; and riccolina with caramelized mushrooms, truffle oil, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Nothing on the menu costs more than $12, although extras such as meatballs, sweet sausage and braised pork can be ordered at an additional charge.

Imported Italian wine by the glass costs $5 to $9, while bottles of wine range between $21 and $41.

"For $20, a diner can get a salad, pasta and a beer or glass of wine," Alauzen says. "We're keeping it nice and simple. Hopefully, we can grow the osteria concept across the region or even mid-state. I think this would be popular in college towns."

Spaghetti Carbonara

Executive chef Greg Alauzen is sharing his popular Spaghetti Carbonara dish. True carbonara, he says, never uses heavy cream but relies on beaten eggs, pasta water and cheese for the creaminess of the sauce. The pancetta in this recipe adds a delightful tanginess to the traditional dish.

Alauzen suggests serving this hearty meal with a light red wine such as a chianti or pinot noir.

• 1 cup pancetta, cut into small dice (If you can't find pancetta, substitute premium bacon)

• 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

• 1 pound spaghetti (preferably fresh)

• Water

• Salt, to taste

• 2 large eggs, beaten

• 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, render the pancetta until crisp and brown. Turn off the heat, but do not drain the fat. Add the garlic and cook briefly, but do not brown.

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling, lightly salted water. Fresh spaghetti takes only 3 to 4 minutes. If using dry pasta, cook according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve the pasta water.

Toss the pasta in the saute pan with the pancetta, garlic and pancetta fat, and add the eggs and 3/4 cup of the cheese. Stir until the eggs start to cook and add enough pasta water to make a creamy consistency.

Season with black peppe. Do not add extra salt before tasting, as the pancetta is salty.

Divide among 4 bowls and top with the remaining cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Additional Information:

Osteria 2350

Cuisine: Italian

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Sundays

Entree price range: $10-$12

Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible. Imported Italian wine, and imported beer from Holland, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Validated parking available at garage on 24th Street.

Address: 2350 Railroad St., Strip District

Details: 412-281-6595 or website

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